The Oxford English Dictionary defines plagiarism as the action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own; literary theft.
As the Office of Academic Ombud Services states, "All incidents of cheating and plagiarism are taken very seriously at the University of Kentucky, and there are specific policies and procedures in place to prosecute them."
But why is plagiarism taken so seriously?
"Unlike a factory that produces snow tires or surf boards, ideas are the product that faculty and their students produce. Sometimes these ideas become patented or copyrighted; they may become poems or novels; designs for stunning buildings or new medicines. When a faculty member assigns a paper or project, the expectation is that students will read and do research and ultimately come up with some individual way of demonstrating that they have used their minds to create an intellectual product of their own. Students who take shortcuts and pretend that someone else’s work is their own, shortchange not only themselves but also commit an academic crime -- almost like selling a stolen laptop. Many faculty see the stealing of ideas and prose of others as just that serious. In most universities, plagiarism is viewed as an academic felony -- not a misdemeanor." (Courtesy of Plagiarism, What is It? by the University of Kentucky Office of Academic Ombud Services)