Being able to write a research paper and synthesize multiple secondary sources is a necessary activity for students in academic settings. This activity, however, involves many skills including finding academic sources, reading them, and integrating direct quotations and paraphrasing. Because novice writers often struggle with these skills, what is a developmental stage is instead interpreted as plagiarism. Much of the discussion of plagiarism involves implicit and explicit definitions of ownership, but there is little research about how students understand the concept of ownership in relation to ideas and language. This qualitative study presents data from 18 international first-year composition students at a Middle Eastern American-style university who write an introductory research paper. Results show that perceptions of plagiarism changed in relation to owning ideas, owning language, and owning time spent on the research process and that distinguishing these boundaries is difficult for students even within their own final research papers.