Plagiarism: Why It’s a Big Deal & How to Avoid It

5 Nov

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism, otherwise known as academic dishonesty, includes but is not limited to the intentional uses, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgement. It also includes the intentional unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or agency engaged in the selling of essays or other academic materials. Plagiarism generally falls into two categories: intentional plagiarism and unintentional plagiarism.

Intentional Plagiarism:

  • Passing off another’s work as one’s own
  • Copying all or part of an essay from an outside source without providing proper documentation
  • Cutting and pasting information from the internet without providing proper documentation
  • Allowing someone else to complete the assignment
  • Borrowing words, ideas, or images from outside sources without providing proper documentation
  • Failing to put quotation marks around material taken directly from a source
  • Falsifying a quotation or supporting information

Unintentional Plagiarism:

  • Paraphrasing poorly
    • Changing the wording, but not the sentence structure
    • Changing the sentence structure, but not the wording
    • Failing to provide proper documentation for a paraphrase
  • Quoting poorly
    • Putting quotation marks around only part of a quotation
    • Putting quotation marks around a passage that is not entirely a direct quotation
    • Failing to provide proper documentation for a direct quote
  • Citing poorly
    • Failing to provide proper documentation for any information taken from a source
      • This includes information that is directly quoted, summarized, or paraphrased
    • Omitting an occasional citation or citing inaccurately.

Why is plagiarism such a big deal?

When plagiarizing, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the student is passing off another’s work as their own. It is important as students to give credit where credit is due. Furthermore, college instructors want to see that their students can 1) show they have a clear understanding of the material they are working with, 2) use source information appropriately to support the ideas that they are working with, and 3) provide their own contribution to the conversation by distinguishing their input and analysis from the information provided by sources. This is part of the reason why it is so important for students to submit their own work and cite their sources appropriately. In addition, plagiarizing can carry very serious consequences.

The Real-Life Consequences of Plagiarizing:

  • A student charged with plagiarism for failing to cite or paraphrase correctly was expelled from a study abroad program and sent home early.
  • A student who copy/pasted information from the internet was charged with plagiarism, received a zero for the assignment, and failed the course.
  • A student charged with plagiarizing several writing assignments received a zero for each assignment, a zero for the course, and faced potential zeros in previously completed courses where plagiarism was suspected.
  • Janet Cooke, a journalist for the Washington Post, fabricated parts of a story that earned a Pulitzer Prize. After realizing the story was fabricated, Cooke’s Pulitzer was withdrawn.
  • New Jersey school board president, Melissa Elias, plagiarized portions of a commencement speech. Elias was forced to resign.
  • Jayson Blair, a New York Times reporter, was forced to resign after he “fabricated comments… concocted scenes… [and] lifted material from other newspapers and wire services.”
  • Two of Romance novelist Janet Dailey‘s publications were pulled from print after it was discovered that she borrowed plot points and passages from writer Nora Roberts. Dailey also had to pay a settlement to Roberts.

Tips to Avoid Plagiarism:

  • Document your sources carefully! Even as you are drafting an assignment, keep a list of the sources that you are using and note where and how you are using the source. This can help with including the appropriate citation later on!
  • Keep your style manual handy! Use your APA, MLA, or other style manual to help you double-check your summaries, paraphrases, direct quotes, and citations.
  • Pay close attention to how you use source material:
    • Put all direct quotations in quotation marks.
    • Change the words and sentence structures when paraphrasing.
    • If including a part of the original source in a summary or paraphrase, place that part in quotation marks!
    • Include a parenthetical citation for every quote, summary, or paraphrase.
    • Include a Works Cited or References entry for any source referenced within the assignment.
  • When in doubt, cite the source anyway – and visit the Writing Center for help!
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