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22.3: Defining Plagiarism

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    What Counts as Plagiarism?

    Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional. It often occurs because the process of citation can be confusing, technology makes copy + paste so easy, and knowing exactly what to cite is not always easy! You can avoid unintentional plagiarism by learning how to cite material and keeping track of sources in your notes. Give yourself plenty of time to process sources so you don’t plagiarize by mistake. Here are some examples of plagiarism:

    • Submitting a paper written by someone else.
    • Using words and phrases from the source text and patching them together in new sentences.
    • Failing to acknowledge the sources of words or information.
    • Not providing quotation marks around a direct quotation. This leads to the false assumption that the words are your own.
    • Borrowing the idea or opinion of someone else without giving the person credit
    • Restating or paraphrasing a passage without citing the original author
    • Borrowing facts or statistics that are not common knowledge without proper acknowledgement
    Six different examples of plagiarism. 404 Error: inaccurate citations or citations to non-existent sources; clone: submitting another's work; copy and paste: copies portions from other texts; mash-up: mixes copied material from multiple sources; recycle: borrows from your previous work; find and replace: changing key words or phrases only.
    The plagiarism spectrum. There are many different ways to plagiarize. It is your responsibility to know what constitutes plagiarism so you can avoid it in your assignments.

    Obvious Plagiarism

    Less Obvious Plagiarism

    • Turning in someone else’s paper as one’s own.
    • Turning in a paper that was bought from a service on the Internet.
    • Reusing a paper previously turned in for one class and then submitting the same paper or portions of it for subsequent classes without permission of the instructor (self-plagiarism).
    • Cutting and pasting entire sections from other authors’ works into one’s own paper.
    • Using another author’s exact words but not putting quotation marks around the quote and citing the work.
    • Failing to differentiate between common knowledge and something that needs to be cited.
    • Failing to include complete and correct citations.
    • Sticking too closely to another author’s words by only changing a few words around when paraphrasing.
    • Using another author’s exact words but not putting quotation marks around the quote even if one cites the work.
    4 more plagiarism examples. Aggregator: includes proper citation to sources but almost no original work; retweet: proper citation, but relies too closely on the original wording; hybrid: combines perfectly cited sources and copied passages in the same paper; remix: paraphrases from multiple sources made to fit together.
    More ways to plagiarize.

    Why Should You Care?

    Being honest and maintaining integrity in your academic work is a sign of character and professionalism. In addition to maximizing your own learning and taking ownership of your academic success, not plagiarizing is important because

    • Your professors assign research projects to help you learn. You cheat yourself when you substitute someone else’s work for your own.
    • You don’t like it when someone else takes credit for your ideas, so don’t do it to someone else.
    • Plagiarizing comes with consequences. Depending on the offense and the institution, you may be asked to rewrite plagiarized work, receive a failing grade on the assignment, fail the entire course, or be suspended from the university.
    • Professors use search engines, databases, and specialized software to check suspicious work, so you will eventually get caught.

    Is it Plagiarism?

    1. Last semester you wrote an essay on Emily Dickinson for Professor Belin’s “American Literature 101” course. This semester you are taking a course called “Interrogating Gender in American Culture,” and Professor Arecco has assigned a paper topic that references Dickinson’s life and work. It would be very easy for you to re-tool whole sections of your first essay to satisfy the requirements of the second. It is acceptable practice to re-submit this paper – without checking with either professor — because you are writing a paper for a different professor and a different course.

    1. This is plagiarism
    2. This is not plagiarism

    [reveal-answer q=”896360″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
    [hidden-answer a=”896360″]a. You are correct. You need to check with BOTH Professor Belin and Professor Arecco before re-submitting this paper. If you were to superficially revise this paper and submit it without prior approval from both professors, you would be committing self-plagiarism by dual submission.[/hidden-answer]


    2. Plagiarism is not limited to taking something from a book; it also includes stealing ideas from a movie, a professor’s lecture, or from an interview on a radio news program.

    1. True, this is plagiarism
    2. False, this is not plagiarism

    [reveal-answer q=”174540″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
    [hidden-answer a=”174540″]a. Plagiarism is a form of intellectual theft, and the medium is less important than the fact that an idea – whether in the form of a musical composition or a string of computer code – has been stolen. Students can be brought before their school’s judiciary boards for any suspected act of plagiarism, regardless of subject or medium.[/hidden-answer]


    3. You have cut and pasted a lot of information from articles you found on web sites and databases into a Word file on your computer. While writing your essay, you find yourself patching together pieces from different sources, and you have occasionally lost track of which ideas were your own and which were from various articles and websites. You consider going back to the original sources but the prospect is daunting. In any case, you figure that if your professor queries your sources, you can say that you didn’t intentionally plagiarize, and this will result in a lesser punishment.

    1. Agree
    2. Disagree

    [reveal-answer q=”676266″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
    [hidden-answer a=”676266″]b. As a general rule, unintentional plagiarism is still intellectual theft and bad note-taking skills are not a mitigating circumstance when punishment is meted out. Note the entries on our web log of well-publicized cases of famous authors whose poor note-taking skills led them to plagiarize. They have had to suffer public humiliation and severe blows to their professional reputations. Here are some tips for avoiding unintentional plagiarism: If you take notes on the computer rather than on paper, create a special folder for citation information.

    In fact, it would be a good idea to create a number of folders: one for your paper; another for sources, with individual files for each and every source; and another folder for the notes you take from each source. Maintain all the information for the bibliography as you go – it’ll save time and effort later. When taking notes, identify your source. Put quotation marks around direct quotes and double check to make sure you’ve duplicated every punctuation mark. Avoid using the author’s language when paraphrasing or summarizing information – unless, of course, you quote verbatim from the original. Here’s a tip for keeping your ideas separate from those in your sources; you can either identify each idea as your own, that is, cite yourself, or put your ideas in a different font, case, or color on the screen. Another good idea is to print out your sources whenever possible, even when you have a file-version on your computer. Working from the paper sources will allow you to check quotations for accuracy.[/hidden-answer]


    4. Your professor has recommended a particular text as a secondary source for an assigned essay on Kant’s ideas about war and peace. You find a quotation that seems to speak directly to Kant’s idea of perpetual peace and you plug it in your essay, but it doesn’t quite relate to what goes before and you don’t know how to discuss it. You realize that you don’t really understand what the quotation means, or how you might discuss it within the larger context of your essay. You think of approaching your professor to ask for help, but decide that she will think less of you for not grasping the import of this text. Instead you find a website that discusses this very idea, and you summarize its explanation in your paper without citing it. Is this plagiarism?

    1. Yes
    2. No

    [reveal-answer q=”494039″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
    [hidden-answer a=”494039″]a. You’re right! Even if it is a website, and even if you are summarizing rather than quoting or paraphrasing from the site, you are still “kidnapping” someone else’s ideas. A summary is written in your own words, but it still makes reference to another person’s intellectual property. Think of it this way: you are collaborating with the authors of your sources, working with their ideas and recasting them to come up with your own. Finally, a word of advice: always go to your professor for help. They should be your first and best resource for questions about texts or anything relating to your class.[/hidden-answer]


    5. I have found something posted on the Internet that I am going to include in a paper that I am writing. It is covered by a “Creative Commons” copyright. Since it is, can I consider it “common knowledge” and not cite it in my paper or included it in my references?

    1. Agree
    2. Disagree

    [reveal-answer q=”362375″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
    [hidden-answer a=”362375″]b. The Creative Commons copyright does NOT mean the information is considered common knowledge. It indicates permission for others to use the material, properly attributed, without violating copyright law. Note: Just because something is posted on the Internet doesn’t automatically make it common knowledge. You are well advised to cite the webpage on which you found the information.[/hidden-answer]


    6. You are writing a biology report and you have included information that you read in your biology textbook. You aren’t sure if this information can be considered common knowledge, or whether you need to cite it. You

    1. Decide not cite the information. Information in the textbook is common knowledge for the biology class.
    2. Determine to cite your text book in the instances where you quoted from it directly; otherwise the summarized ideas in this text are considered common knowledge.
    3. Cite all the information you’ve gleaned from the textbook, whether quoted verbatim or summarized.

    [reveal-answer q=”908000″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
    [hidden-answer a=”908000″]c. You should cite the textbook regardless of whether or not you quote from it directly. While it is not necessary to give citations for certain well-known equations, it is important to acknowledge your debt for any information you did not come up with independently.[/hidden-answer]


    7. Is this use of information from a website plagiarism?

    plag pic
    1. Yes, it is plagiarism. The writer of the paper just rearranged some of the words from the website and does not acknowledge the source.
    2. No, it is not plagiarism. The paragraph written in the research paper is different than the website so the author didn’t need to cite the original.

    [reveal-answer q=”173701″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
    [hidden-answer a=”173701″]a. This is an example of plagiarism. The original content has not been changed very much, and there is no citation of the source material.[/hidden-answer]


    8. Is this plagiarism?

    Passage from a source text with an example of a student paper in which they have paraphrased the content, included a citation in parenthesis, and also included a citation in the works cited list.
    1. Yes, it is plagiarism. The student did not use quotation marks.
    2. No, it is not plagiarism. The student gave credit to the source in the text of the paper and in the list of references

    [reveal-answer q=”90716″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
    [hidden-answer a=”90716″]b. The student did not need to use quotation marks, because the original material was paraphrased. And the student provided proper citation of the source, both in-text and in the list of works cited.[/hidden-answer]


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