A. Practical Examples of Plagiarism5
- Turning in someone else's work as your own.
- Changing the words of an original source is not sufficient to prevent plagiarism. If you have retained the essential idea of an original source, and have not cited it, then no matter how drastically you may have altered its context or presentation, you have still plagiarized.
- Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit.
- Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks.
- Giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation.
- Changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit.
- Copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not.
5Borrowed with permission from www.plagiarism.org.
B. Unauthorized Collaboration6
In the American educational system, the concept of original work is a fundamental tenet of scholarship. In recent years, more educators have also recognized the value of having students work on some assignments in groups. Students, however, may be engaging in scholastic dishonesty if they fail to distinguish between collaboration that is authorized for a particular assignment and collaboration that is done for the sake of expediency. Some students rationalize their involvement in unauthorized collaboration on the basis that it "helps them learn better" and is not cheating because they are contributing to the final product. Indeed, many educators believe that group assignments enhance some forms of learning. However, the purpose of a particular assignment and the acceptable method of completing it are to be determined by the instructor, not the student.
Unauthorized collaboration with another person on an assignment offered for academic credit is a common form of scholastic dishonesty. Such assignments may include, but are not limited to, lab reports, computer programming assignments, papers, homework, or tests (take-home or in-class). This violation also includes allowing another person to view your work drafted or completed without the necessary authorization. Unauthorized collaboration can even occur within the context of group projects when the degree or type of collaboration exceeds the parameters of what has been expressly authorized.
Unless working together on an assignment has been specifically approved, it is not allowed. The extent of collaboration permitted may vary widely from one class to the next or even from one project to the next within the same class. Do not assume that working together is allowed. Always ask your instructor what his or her expectations are in this regard. While the course requirements in some classes at the University may consist primarily of group assignments, the norm in most classes is that each student is expected to do his or her own work individually. You should assume that you are to perform all assignments independently unless you have specific permission to work together on an assignment.
6Borrowed from The University of Texas
Plagiarism is an extremely serious violation of academic integrity. The Student Code of Conduct defines plagiarism as:
- Submitting another’s published or unpublished work in whole, in part or in paraphrase, as one’s own without fully and properly crediting the author with footnotes, quotation marks, citations, or bibliographic references.
- Submitting as one’s own original work, material obtained from an individual, agency, or the internet without reference to the person, agency or webpage as the source of the material.
- Submitting as one’s own original work material that has been produced through unacknowledged collaboration with others without release in writing from collaborators.
- Submitting one’s own previously written or oral work without modification and instructor permission.
Plagiarism can occur in myriad of forms and media. Although most commonly associated with writing, all types of scholarly work, including computer code, music, scientific data and analysis, and electronic publications can be plagiarized. The aim of this section is to help students and faculty deal with the complex and important issue of plagiarism on campus.
A Question of Intent?
Plagiarism, strictly speaking, is not a question of intent. Any use of the content or style of another's intellectual product without proper attribution constitutes plagiarism. However, students plagiarize for a variety of reasons, and awareness of these reasons is essential for understanding the problem of plagiarism.
Some students choose to plagiarize. Whether claiming to be overworked, compensating for their own perceived academic or language deficiencies, or simply hoping to gain an academic advantage, those who choose to claim credit for another's work are guilty of plagiarism. Those who intentionally plagiarize "borrow" either from published sources, such as books, journal articles, or electronic information, or from unpublished sources, such as a friend's paper or a commercial writing service. Whatever the source, such conduct is a direct and serious violation of accepted standards of academic integrity.
Others, however, stumble into plagiarism. Negligent plagiarism can result from ineffective proofreading, sloppy notetaking, or, most commonly, simple ignorance about the nature of plagiarism itself. Such inadvertent plagiarism, while not an excuse for what is still a serious breach of academic standards, is a more complex area of academic conduct than straightforward copying. Addressing the issue of negligent plagiarism requires a careful examination of both the definition of plagiarism and the appropriate techniques for scholarly attribution.
What is Plagiarism?
Nearly everyone understands that copying passages verbatim from another writer's work and representing them as one's own work constitute plagiarism. Yet plagiarism involves much more. Plagiarism includes any use of another's work and submitting that work as one's own. This means not only copying passages of writing or direct quotations but also paraphrasing or using structure or ideas without citation. Learning how to paraphrase and when and how to cite can be difficult, yet it is an essential step in maintaining academic integrity.
Like a direct quotation, a paraphrase is the use of another's ideas to enhance one's own work. For this reason, a paraphrase, just like a quotation, must be cited. In a paraphrase, however, the author rewrites in his or her own words the ideas taken from the source. Therefore, a paraphrase is not set within quotation marks. So, while the ideas may be borrowed, the borrower's writing must be entirely original; merely changing a few words or rearranging words or sentences is not paraphrasing. Even if properly cited, a paraphrase that is too similar to the writing of the original is plagiarized.
Good writers often signal paraphrases through clauses such as "Werner Sollors, in Beyond Ethnicity, argues that..." Such constructions avoid excessive reliance on quotations, which can clog writing, and demonstrate that the writer has thoroughly digested the source author's argument. A full citation, of course, is still required. When done properly, a paraphrase is usually much more concise than the original and always has a different sentence structure and word choice. Yet no matter how different from the original, a paraphrase must always be cited, because its content is not original to the author of the paraphrase.
The following are examples, with explanations, of the wrong and right ways to paraphrase:
- The Wrong Way to Paraphrase #1
- Original Passage: "[J]ust before 1914 most religious leaders genuinely opposed war and few saw reasons to partake in a remote struggle in Europe. For decades a spirit of progressive optimism had moved many of the more powerful leaders, who saw no point in settling human differences with anything so destructive as war. Yet when it came, they closed ranks and generated an ideology to support it. The majority suspected innocents for presumed lack of patriotism and punished dissenters. For a brief moment they also found that the specter and cause of war united them as no spiritual impulse of their own ever could."8
- Paraphrase: Although initially skeptical, many religious leaders soon embraced America's involvement in the First World War, and even discovered that it (and the xenophobia surrounding it) bolstered their sense of solidarity more effectively than purely religious motivations had.
- Explanation: This paraphrase, while an accurate summary of the above passage, is nevertheless plagiarized, because it contains no citation of the passage from which its main ideas are obviously derived.
- The Wrong Way to Paraphrase #2
- Original Passage: "To the young American architects who made the pilgrimage, the most dazzling figure of all was Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus School. Gropius opened the Bauhaus in Weimar, the German capital, in 1919. It was more than a school; it was a commune, a spiritual movement, a radical approach to art in all its forms, a philosophical center comparable to the Garden of Epicurus."9
- Paraphrase: As Tom Wolfe notes, to young American architects who went to Germany, the most dazzling figure was Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus School. 1 Gropius opened the Bauhaus in the German capital of Weimar in 1919. It was, however, more than a school, it was a commune, a spiritual movement, a philosophical center like the Garden of Epicurus.
- Explanation: While the author of this intended paraphrase mentions the source and gives a full citation in a footnote, this excerpt is nevertheless plagiarized, because it is in fact not a paraphrase at all but a nearly verbatim reproduction of the source. It is too similar to the original. Rather than concisely summarizing the ideas, it uses the phrasing and structure of the original.
- The Right Way to Paraphrase
- Original Passage: "The Republican Convention of 1860, which adopted planks calling for a tariff, internal improvements, a Pacific railroad and a homestead law, is sometimes seen as a symbol of Whig triumph within the party. A closer look, however, indicates that the Whig's triumph within the party was of a very tentative nature."10
- Paraphrase: Contrary to many historians, Eric Foner argues that the Republican platform of 1860 should not be understood as an indication of Whig dominance of the party.
- Explanation: This paraphrase is properly cited and represents an accurate and concise summary of the source.
7Borrowed from The University of Texas
8Source: Martin E. Marty, Pilgrims in Their Own Land: 500 Years of Religion in America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1984), 355.
9Source: Tom Wolfe, From Bauhaus to Our House (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1981), 10.
10Source: Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), 175.
D. Notetaking and Proofreading11
Good paraphrasing skills allow a writer to make use of source material in a fluid and honest way. However, proper notetaking and careful proofreading, which come before and after the writing, can be just as important for producing high-quality and accurately-attributed scholarship. When taking notes, do not copy directly from a source into your notes unless you intend to quote that source directly. Rather, read carefully, take time to think, and then write down, in your own words, the main ideas of what you have read. Of course, be sure to note the source for proper citation. These notes will then become the basis of your summary. Skipping the notetaking step and paraphrasing directly from a source into a draft of your work not only limits your ability to think through the ideas for yourself but also increases the likelihood that you will commit negligent plagiarism. Use notetaking as an opportunity to develop and organize your own ideas.
Proofreading, like notetaking, is a vital step in the writing process, one that students too often skip. Proofreading offers the opportunity to check your work for errors of spelling and punctuation as well as overall fluidity of style and coherence of argument. It is also the time to verify all references and citations. Do not, however, wait until proofreading to include citations. Citations should be included in the first draft. It is simply too easy to omit a reference accidentally and then forget the source of a fact, quotation, or paraphrase.
Whose idea is it, anyway?
One of the most complicated aspects of source citation is learning how to distinguish "borrowed ideas," which must be cited, from "common knowledge," which does not need to be cited. A simple guideline is that well-known or easily accessible facts, such as the winner of the 1908 World Series, or commonplace observations, such as Einstein's prominence in modern physics, need not be cited. Unique ideas, controversial or especially important facts, and novel insights all must be cited (although other items may need to be cited which meet none of these criteria). This is a judgment that often depends on the writer and his or her academic community. What the audience of an academic journal considers common knowledge may not be seen the same way in a freshman composition course.
To be safe, be attentive to where you encountered a particular idea. Just as with paraphrasing, good notetaking is invaluable for tracking the origin of ideas. And of course, the best advice remains: when in doubt, cite. Consult your instructor if you need help clarifying this issue.
- Original Passage: "With voice vote elections, and with participation limited to the more stable elements of the population, rich men won elections. Rochester's fifty wealthiest taxpayers, along with their relatives and business associates, accounted for 61 percent of the trustees elected between 1817 and 1825."12
- Paraphrase: The wealthy dominated Rochester politics in the 1810s and 1820s. In fact, of the trustees elected from 1817-1825, fully 61 percent came from the fifty richest men and their families and friends.
- Explanation: This passage must be cited, because the author has used specific information not readily available elsewhere.
11Borrowed from The University of Texas
12Paul Johnson, A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978), 61.
E. Helpful Links