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Plagiarism

Plagiarism is defined as using someone else’s words, original ideas, or data in your work of writing without giving proper credit or reference to the creator. In other words, you present another person’s ideas as your own.

To be fair, ethical, and moral you must acknowledge the authors of your sources. Whether the work belongs to a member of the class or is published, you must act responsibly. Acting without responsibility makes you guilty of an academic offense. As in any offense, consequences follow. One of these consequences may be academic dismissal, because plagiarism is a form of theft. The United States of America copyright law governing publications states that the authorship of sources must be acknowledged. If material is borrowed long enough, payment is due to the original author as well. Thus, writers must make it a top priority to carefully document sources.

Plagiarism can be avoided by simply supplying appropriate credit where it is due. This is done by documenting the passage. Documentation takes several forms, but all tell the reader that other people’s ideas (not simply your own) went into the work. Examples can be located below.

When to Cite

  • All direct quotations
  • Paraphrases (in your own words) of sentences, summaries
  • Statistics
  • All non-original tables, graphs, diagrams, illustrations
  • Little-known facts
  • An idea
  • Someone else’s opinion

The only exception . . . Common knowledge: meaning that the usual information can be found in a number of general and easily accessible sources. Examples: the dates and names of historical events, the temperature at which water boils, George Washington was the first American president.

When in doubt, cite the source!

How to Avoid Plagiarism

  • Write your draft with the sources closed. Do not go back and forth between your draft and the sources.
  • Keep your own voice in your writing. Do not let the sources dominate your voice.
  • Stress in your writing what you feel to be the most important.

Example

  1. Enclose the source’s exact phrases, explanation, etc. (or borrowed language) in quotation marks.
    • Original source and examples of correct “borrowing” of words:
      • No animal had done more to renew interest in animal intelligence that a beguiling, bilingual bonobo named Kanzi, who has the grammatical abilities of a 2 ½ year old child and a taste for movies about cavemen. —Eugune Linden, Animals, p.57

        • According to Eugune Linden, no animal has done more to renew interest in animal intelligence than a beguiling, bilingual bonobo named Kanzi, who has the grammatical abilities of a 2 ½ year old child and a taste for movies about cavemen (57).
        • According to Eugune Linden, “No animal has done more to renew interest in animal intelligence than a beguiling, bilingual bonobo named Kanzi, who has the grammatical abilities of a 2 ½ year-old-child and a taste for movies about cavemen” (57).
  2. Putting summaries and paraphrases into your own words
    • Original Source
      • If the existence of a signing ape was unsettling for linguists, it was also startling news for animal behaviorists. —Davis, Eloquent Animals, p.26
    • Unacceptable borrowing of phrases
      • The existence of a signing ape unsettled linguists and startled animal behaviorists (Davis 26).
    • Unacceptable borrowing of structure
      • If the presence of a sign language using chimp was disturbing for scientists studying language, it was also surprising to scientists studying animal behavior (Davis 26).
    • Acceptable Paraphrases
      • When they learned of an ape’s ability to use sign language, both linguists and animal behaviorists were taken by surprise (Davis 26).
      • According to Flora Davis, linguists and animal behaviorists were unprepared for the news that a chimp could communicate with its trainers through sign language (26).

Adapted from: Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference. Boston: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

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