Alas, plagiarism is the new plague at colleges and universities around the country. There are many theories about what's going on, and plenty of blame to go around. But it really doesn't much matter whether the root problem is a failure to teach writing papers in high school, the easy availability of so much information on the Internet, or anything else. Here's the point:
Plagiarism includes copying others' words or other work without proper citation, but it also includes copying others' ideas. Changing verb tenses or the order of words is not only still plagiarism, it looks like a malicious attempt to disguise the deed. Plagiarism is theft. It is absolutely unacceptable and indefensible, and "I didn't know" will not get anyone off the hook. Its proximate effect is academic failure.
But I'm not worried about it in our class, because you simply won't plagiarize. Anything. Ever.
There are some excellent resources out therethat will help you understand what plagiarism is, and how to avoid it. Use them! Rather than reinvent the wheel, let me point you to some fine resources:
And once you've begun gathering your sources for that well-written and thoroughly documented paper,
Be aware that I do, indeed, check for plagiarism. It's my job to help you learn to write well, so I can't let either of us get sloppy. I do use the Turnitin.com database, which checks papers against billions (no kidding!) of web pages, published articles, and other papers; I use other resources as well. If you would like access to Turnitin.com, please ask me.
You won't plagiarize, because you know that even accidental plagiarism will fail the assignment, and plagiarism that I judge to be malicious will result in a grade of F for the course, all other work notwithstanding. In addition, offending students will be reported to their academic advisor and to the Dean of Students for possible additional adjudication.
But that isn't you, so get writing!