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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dishonesty, includes but is not limited to the intentional uses, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgement.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!

Understanding In-Text Citations: APA Style

23 Sep

In a previous post, Style Guides & How to Use Them, we discussed the APA style, MLA style, and Chicago style guides and how to use them, noting some of the similarities and differences between the three styles. Regardless of which style a writer is using, whenever information from an outside source is included, an in-text citation is needed. The construction of the in-text citation varies according to the style guide the writer is using.

APA Style & In-Text Citations

In APA style, outside information is cited within a text using an author-date citation system, where the writer includes the author’s (or authors’) last name (without suffixes, such as Jr.) and the year of publication. As the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010) explains, “[t]his style of citation briefly identifies the source for the reader and enables them to locate the source of information in the alphabetical reference list” (p. 174) at the end of the text. Any source used within the text must be referenced with an in-text citation in the text itself, and a full citation in the reference list.

Writers have different options when including in-text citations. While the author’s last name and the year of publication must appear where the source is used, writers can integrate this material in a variety of ways. For example:

Among epidemiological samples, Kessler (2003) found that early onset social anxiety disorder results in a more potent and severe course. …The study also showed that there was a high rate of comorbidity with alcohol abuse or dependence and major depression (Kessler, 2003).

In the above example, the writer included their in-text citation in two different ways. First, they note the author’s last name in their initial sentence to introduce the source that they are incorporating. The year, in parenthesis, then appears after the author’s last name. At the end of their paragraph, they include a paraphrase from the same source, but they do not include the author’s last name as part of the sentence itself. In this case, both the author’s last name and the year must appear in the parenthetical citation.

When a writer is included a direct quotation (as opposed to a summary or paraphrase of the information from the source), they need to include the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page number/s where the quoted material appears in the source. The parenthetical citation containing the page number must directly follow the quote itself, while the other information may be included in different areas. For example:

Confusing this issue is the overlapping nature of roles in palliative care, whereby “medical needs are met by those in the medical disciplines; nonmedical needs may be addressed by anyone on the team” (Calaski & Chaitin, 2006, p. 112).

In 2006, Calaski & Chaitin discussed the overlapping nature of roles in palliative care, noting that “medical needs are met by those in the medical disciplines; nonmedical needs may be addressed by anyone on the team” (p. 112).

Calaski & Chaitin (2006) commented on the overlapping nature of roles in palliative care by explaining that “medical needs are met by those in the medical disciplines; nonmedical needs may be addressed by anyone on the team” (p. 112).

In the first example, the writer does not mention the authors’ last names in the sentence, so they must include the authors’ last names, the year, and the page number where the quoted material appeared in their parenthetical citation – (Calaski & Chaitin, 2006, p.112). In the second example, the writer includes the authors’ last names and the year in the sentence itself, so they need only include the page number in their parenthetical citation – (p. 112). In the last example, the authors’ last names are included in the sentence, and the year follows. The parenthetical citation noting the page number should always appear directly after the quoted material.

Notes on APA style in-text citations:

  • When using a long quotation (of 40 or more words) the quoted material should be included as a free-standing block of text, and the writer should omit the quotation marks. The block quotation will begin on a new line, and it should be indented ½” from the left margin (like beginning a new paragraph). Each line of the quoted passage is indented.
  • When using a work with multiple authors, follow these rules:
    • Two authors: cite both names every time the reference occurs in the text.
      • Example: (Smith & Carter, 2005, p. 12)
  • Three, four, or five authors: cite all authors the first time the reference occurs in the text. In subsequent citations, include only the last name of the first author followed by “et al.” and the year. 
    • Example: First: (Kisangau, Lyaruu, Hosea, and Joseph, 2007, p. 10)
    • Example: Subsequent: (Kisangau et al., 2007, p. 10)
  • Six or more authors: cite only the last name of the first author followed by “et al.” and the year in the first and all subsequent citations.
    • Example: (Davis et al., 2012, p. 20)
    • Writers should not omit citations embedded within the original material that they are quoting.  It is not necessary to include the additional source within the list of references (unless the noted source is used as a primary source elsewhere in the text).
      • Example: “In the United States, the American Cancer Society (2007) estimated that about 1 million cases of NMSC and 59,940 cases of melanoma would be diagnosed in 2007, with melanoma resulting in 8,110 deaths” (Miller et al., 2009, p. 209).
      • Many electronic sources do not provide page numbers. If paragraph numbers are visible or available, use them in place of page numbers, using para instead of p. – (para. 4).
      • Chapter 6 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association includes more information and examples for different writing and citing situations. 

Style Guides & How to Use Them

17 Sep

What is a Style Guide?

A style guide is a publication that shows users how to format assignments and utilize sources according to a specified set of guidelines. There are many different style guides that contain the rules and regulations for successful use of a particular style (APA style, MLA style, etc.). Different styles have different rules. The good news is that once you master the ability to use one style and one style guide, you can easily use the others!

What is APA Style?

APA style is an editorial style recommended by the American Psychological Association (APA) for preparing scholarly manuscripts and student research papers. APA style is the standard format for papers, articles, and books in the social sciences. APA style specifies rules for formatting papers (including requirements for margins, line spacing, font, etc.) and citing ideas (information borrowed from other sources) through the use of in-text or parenthetical citations and a References page.

What is MLA Style?

MLA style is an editorial style recommended by the Modern Language Association (MLA), also for preparing scholarly manuscripts and student research papers. MLA style is commonly used in writing projects in the humanities (English, foreign languages, etc.). MLA style has its own rules for formatting papers (including requirements for margins, line spacing, font, the appearance of the first page, etc.) and citing ideas (information borrowed from other sources) through the use of in-text or parenthetical citations and a References page.

What is Chicago Style?

Chicago style, based on The Chicago Manual of Style, specifies guidelines on manuscript preparation and publication, as well as source documentation using one of two systems: the Notes-Bibliography system (preferred in literature, history and the arts) and the Author-Date system (preferred in the social sciences). Both systems are similar, but the Notes-Bibliography system is more commonly used. Using the Notes-Bibliography system, writers use endnotes or footnotes to reference sources throughout their writing, and a Bibliography listing the sources at the end.

APA, MLA, Chicago… What’s the Difference?

APA style in-text or parenthetical citations typically utilize the author or authors’ last name and the year the information was published (i.e.: (Smith, 2001)). Include a page number in APA style citations only when quoting from the source (i.e.: (Smith, 2001, p. 5). In social science fields, current information is often important, and the date is emphasized accordingly. The full citations in an APA style Reference list will first include the author or authors’ last names (and first initials), as well as the date of publication.

Example (Book): Calfree, R.C., & Valencia, R.R. (1991) APA guide to preparing manuscripts for journal publication. Washington, D.C: American Psychological Association.

MLA style in-text or parenthetical citations use the author or authors’ last name and the page number where the information appeared (i.e.: (Smith 4)). This allows the reader to use the information in the parenthetical citation to locate the full citation on the MLA style Works Cited page, where they can then lookup the source for themselves, turn to the correct page, and find the exact information from the text. Full citations in an MLA style Works Cited differ slightly from full citations in APA style References list, in that the author’s full first name is included, and the year is listed in a different location.

Example (Book): Gleick, James. Chaos: Making a New Science. New York: Penguin, 1987. Print.

Using Chicago’s Notes-Bibliography system of citation, writers include a footnote or endnote instead of a parenthetical citation. The use of a footnote or endnote places a superscript number within the text, allowing the writer to include the necessary bibliographic information within the footnote (at the end of each page) or the endnote (at the end of the entire document). When referencing a source for the first time, the footnote or endnote should include all relevant information from the source (author’s full name, source title, and publication information). When referencing the source an additional time, include the author’s last name, shortened form of the title, and any page numbers. Chicago style also utilizes a Reference list with full citations for all sources cited within the work, and occasionally additional sources that provide further reading.

Example (Book): Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom! New York: Vintage Books, 1990.

When using APA, MLA, or Chicago style, citations will typically begin with the author or authors’ names. If no author is known, begin with the title. Our example book citations all include nearly the same information – the title of the book, the place of publication, the publisher, and the date – but this information is included in different areas and with different punctuation according to the style used to cite the source. This is why Style Guides are helpful! The Style Guide for each source will include the specific information (what elements to include where and what punctuation to use) as well as numerous examples for all different source types. Additionally, once you’ve learned how to navigate one Style Guide, it is easy to use that knowledge to approach a different Style Guide. Check out the Helpful Links and Info Sheets for more help with APA and MLA! 

APA Style Guide: Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association*

MLA Style Guide: MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing*

Chicago Style Guide: The Chicago Manual of Style

*Grammar handbooks (like A Writer’s Reference) will typically include chapters on APA Style and MLA Style, with common formatting and citation information, and examples.

© Alyssa Ryan and The Christ College Writing Center (2013-2016)