UNDERSTANDING & AVOIDING PLAGIARISM You probably know that turning in someone else’s research paper as your own work is plagiarism of the worst kind. But do you really understand what is plagiarism and what isn’t? Are you comfortable that you understand when to document (cite) sources and when it’s okay not to do? Do you know what criteria to use? Most problems related to plagiarism arise in college writing because students lack clear and confident answers to these questions – and not because students want to cheat the system. In this lesson, we’ll define plagiarism, explore the ethical and community standards for writing in an academic environment. UNDERSTANDING & AVOIDING PLAGIARISM (2) • The Internet makes it easy to copy and download material and paste it into a paper – which in itself is not a problem unless the writer fails to acknowledge the source with an in-text citation of some sort and a bibliography entry at the back of the paper. AVOIDING PLAGIARISM • First, develop personal notes full of your own ideas on a topic. Discover how you feel about the issue. Then, rather than copy sources one after another onto your pages of text, try to express your own ideas while synthesizing the ideas of the authorities by using summary, paraphrase, or direct quotation. Rethink and reconsider ideas gathered during your reading, make meaningful connections, and, when you refer to the ideas or exact words of a source – as you inevitably will – give the other writer full credit. AVOIDING PLAGIARISM (2) • Plagiarism is offering the words or ideas of another person as one’s own. Major violations, which can bring failure in the course or expulsion from the college, are: • The use of another student’s work • The purchase of a canned research paper • Copying whole passages into a paper without documentation • Copying a key, well-worded phrase into a paper without documentation • Putting specific ideas of others into your own words without documentation AVOIDING PLAGIARISM (3) • These instances reflect a deliberate attempt on the part of the writer to deceive. Closely related, but not technically plagiarism, is to fabricate information knowingly – that is, just make it up off the top of your head. Some news reporters have lost their jobs because of fabrication. In addition, a gray area of plagiarism exists: errors caused by carelessness. For example: • The writer fails to enclose quoted material within quotation marks, yet he or she provides an in-text citation with name and page number. • The writer’s paraphrase never quite becomes paraphrase – too much of the original is left intact – but he or she provides a full citation to name and page. AVOIDING PLAGIARISM (4) • In these situations, instructors must step in and help the beginning researcher, for although these case are not flagrant instances of plagiarism, they can maran otherwise fine piece of research. What’s more, double standards exist. Magazine writers and newspaper reporters offer citations to quotations and paraphrases that seldom show academic documentation. For example, the magazine might say: Randall Hicks, in his essay “ A Lesson for the Future,” says “young people’s ability to think about the future is not very well developed and their images tend to be pessimistic.” AVOIDING PLAGIARISM (5) • That’s it – no page number and no bibliography at the end of the magazine article. The magazine citation gives minimal information, but usually enough that a reader could go in search of the full essay by Hicks. • However, as a academic writer, you must document fully any borrowed ideas and words. The academic citation – author, page number, and bibliography entry – establihes two things beyond your reliability and credibility: • 1. A clear trail for other researchers to follow if they also want to consult the source • 2. Information for other researchers who might need to replicate (reproduce) the project AVOIDING PLAGIARISM (6) • When you provide an academic citation, you’ve made it clear who you’ve read, how you used it in your paper, and where others can find it. • Even then, scholarly documentation differs from field to field – that is, literary papers are written in a different style from a scientific paper. In the social sciences, a paraphrase does not require a page number. In the applied sciences, a number replaces the authority’s name, the year, and even the page number. So you will find that standards shift considerably as you move from class to class from discipline to discipline. The good writer learns to adapt to the changes in the academic standards.