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library reference guides: Plagiarism

It was the best of times, and pretty much the worst of times. I felt borne back ceaselessly to the past. Maybe that's because days on the calendar creep along in a petty pace and all our yesterdays but light fools the road to dusty death.

OK, the above words are not really mine. But hey, I changed them slightly. I thought nobody would notice.

(reprinted from "The Sincerest Flattery" by Gregg Easterbrook, Newsweek, July 29, 1991, p. 45, with permission from the author.)

Plagiarism is a serious offense. It has been called "intellectual theft" because it involves taking the ideas and/or words of another and using them as your own. Some plagiarism may be accidental, but most is usually deliberate. In the classroom, punishment for plagiarizing is both swift and severe.

PLAGIARISM AND DOCUMENTATION

In writing a research paper, you must be prepared to document everything you get from outside sources. If you fail to do this, you set yourself up for the charge of plagiarism. A good rule of thumb to follow in writing a paper is this: if in doubt, document!

QUOTING, SUMMARIZING, PARAPHRASING

If you copy the exact words of another, whether these words are spoken or written in print or electronic form, you must enclose the words in quotation marks and cite the source. When summarizing and paraphrasing, you won't be using quotation marks because you are putting the thoughts and experiences into your own words; however, you must continue to cite and acknowledge the sources. If you do this and if you do it fairly and accurately so as not to distort the author's meaning, you are participating in honest research writing.

EXAMPLES OF PROPER DOCUMENTATION

  • QUOTING
    When quoting, you are calling upon the direct words of others, usually recognized authorities, to illustrate and support your points. Be sure each quotation you use is exact and that both beginning and ending quotation marks are positioned correctly.

EXAMPLE:
"... you will strengthen your paper by summarizing an important book, by paraphrasing passages of important articles, and by directly quoting key authorities. Rather than secretly stuffing your paper with plagiarized materials, announce boldly the name of your sources to let readers know the scope of your reading on the subject." (Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers, 8th ed. HarperCollins, 1996. p.139)

  • SUMMARIZING
    When summarizing, you are condensing an extensive idea or argument into a concise, objective statement of your own that covers the main points and conveys your understanding of the subject matter. Be sure to acknowledge sources in your textual material, as well as in your footnotes or endnotes.

EXAMPLE:
In the 5th edition of the Little Brown Handbook the authors, Fowler and Aaron, explain the difference between deliberate and accidental plagiarism. They point out that deliberate plagiarism includes copying material word for word, summarizing or paraphrasing without giving credit to the source, and buying or otherwise obtaining someone else's paper and submitting it as your own. Accidental plagiarism, they say, includes forgetting to put quotation marks around quotes and failing to cite a source because you don't realize you are supposed to.
< (Fowler, H. Ramsey and Jane E. Aaron, The Little, Brown Handbook, 5th ed. HarperCollins, 1992. p. 578.)

  • PARAPHRASING
    When paraphrasing, you are more closely following the author's original wording, but instead of quoting directly, you are putting what s/he said into your own words. Be sure to acknowledge sources in your textual material, as well as in your footnotes or endnotes.

EXAMPLE:
According to Mr. Easterbrook, there is no more stupid crime in the world than plagiarism. (Easterbrook, Gregg. "The Sincerest Flattery." Newsweek, July 29, 1991, p. 46.)

WHAT YOU DON'T NEED TO DOCUMENT

There are some things you are not required to document in your research papers.

  • Your own thoughts and experiences
    You do not need to acknowledge personal observations and conclusions, but you are expected to back them up with enough information so that readers may evaluate your thinking processes.
  • Basic items of knowledge people share in common
    You do not need to acknowledge standard information that can be verified in basic works of reference (e.g., the dates of the Civil War), folk literature without known origins (e.g., Mother Goose rhymes) or commonsense observations (e.g., rain helps flowers grow).

A WORD ABOUT THE INTERNET

Everything that has been said above applies to electronic resources on the Web as well. You are plagiarizing if you cut and paste paragraphs from web pages and insert them into your paper without acknowledging your sources. You may also be violating copyright. Since 1989, copyright is automatic; no formal filing is necessary, and even printed notices are not required. On the Internet, everything (including email messages, graphic representations, music and other sound clips, etc.) is automatically copyrighted. If you're posting your paper on a web site and it contains the words, images, or sounds of others, you may need to get permission first. Only printed works published prior to 1923 are considered fully within the public domain. Others carry restrictions. Be aware that mere ownership of a book, manuscript, painting, or any other copy or phonorecord does not give the possessor the copyright. (For more information on copyright law and public domain, see "When Works Pass into the Public Domain"). Finally, since web pages, unlike published print materials, have a tendency to change without notice, you would be wise to keep copies of each of the web page sources you use when writing your paper. You may be asked to produce them later on.

RECOMMENDED PLAGIARISM SITES ON THE WEB

SEARCH ENGINES THAT CAN DETECT PLAGIARISM

SOURCES

  1. Easterbrook, Gregg. "The Sincerest Flattery." Newsweek, July 29, 1991. Pp. 45-46.
  2. Fowler, H. Ramsey and Jane E. Aaron. The Little, Brown Handbook. 5th ed. HarperCollins, 1992. Pp. 578-584.
  3. Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 4th ed. Modern Language Association of America, 1995. Pp. 26-29.
  4. Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers, A Complete Guide. 8th ed. HarperCollins, 1996. Pp. 138-144.
  5. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 4th ed. 1995. Pp. 292-294.

Last modified Thursday October 09, 2014

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