Most students are aware of the general definition of plagiarism: intentionally representing another person's ideas, findings, statistics, language, sentence structure, etc. as their own.
There is more to it, however, than handing in a roommate's composition or pulling a paper off the Internet. In fact, many incidences of plagiarism are unintentional and quite often the result of carelessness or simple ignorance regarding academic rules.
Deliberate or not, plagiarism is academic dishonesty. The consequences are significant: failure or expulsion from an academic institution for students; loss of credibility and severely damaged reputations for professionals.
The importance of understanding and avoiding plagiarism cannot be overstated.