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Plagiarism

What is and what is not plagiarism

by Holly Hartman
Open book with glasses and pen behind a stack of books

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What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism means using someone else's work without giving them credit.

How do I know when to give credit?

In your writing, you must give credit whenever you use information that you found in a source, unless it is common knowledge (see below). Always give your source for:

  • Quotations (exact words)
  • Paraphrased information
  • Summarized information
  • Facts that are not common knowledge
  • Ideas, including opinions and thoughts about what particular facts mean
  • Maps, charts, graphs, data, and other visual or statistical information

What is common knowledge?

Common knowledge is information that is widely available. If you saw the same fact repeated in most of your sources, and if your reader is likely to already know this fact, it is probably common knowledge. For example, the fact that Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia in 2000 is common knowledge.

Accidental Plagiarism

Sometimes, plagiarism is obvious. Copying a lab report from another student and buying a research paper over the Internet are clear examples of plagiarism. But plagiarism can also be accidental. Following these tips will help you avoid accidental plagiarism.

  • In your research, when you copy words from a source, put quotation marks around them so that you do not forget that they were not your own words.
  • When your notes include an idea, write in parentheses whether it is the source's idea or your own idea.
  • Check your final text against your notes. Make sure that you did not accidentally use wording or other content without giving credit for it.

Unacceptable paraphrasing and misuse of credits are the most common causes of accidental plagiarism. Here are examples of these problems-and some solutions.

Source

A pro-market democratic reformer, Vladimir Putin has vowed to revitalize the foundering economy, fight corruption, subvert Communism, and build a strong Russia. —Beth Rowen, Vladimir Putin: President and Prime Minister of Russia

Problem: Uncredited Quotation

A pro-market reformer, Vladimir Putin vows to revitalize the economy, fight corruption, subvert Communism, and build a stronger nation.

The writer has dropped and changed a few words, but otherwise just copied the source.

Remember! When words are taken from a source, they must be 1) copied exactly; 2) enclosed in quotation marks; and 3) followed by a credit.



Problem: Unacceptable Paraphrasing

A democratic reformer who is pro-market, Vladimir Putin has promised to reenergize the failing economy, battle corruption, destroy Communism, and develop a powerful Russia.

The writer has changed a few words, but the sentence structure and much of the wording are the same as in the source. The writing is too similar to the source to count as original.

Remember! An acceptable paraphrase changes both the sentence structure and the wording.


So, what if the writer had added a source credit to the end? Would that make it acceptable? Well, no. Here's why.



Problem: Misused Source Credit

A pro-market reformer, Vladimir Putin has promised to reenergize the failing economy, battle corruption, destroy Communism, and develop a powerful Russia. (Rowen.)

The writer does give a source credit. However, the paraphrasing is unacceptable (see above), and it does not become acceptable just because a source credit is added. The purpose of a source credit is to tell where information came from. Unless the writer is using a quotation, the information must always be restated in an original way.

Remember! The writer must either copy the source exactly and use quotation marks, or paraphrase the source acceptably. Both options require source credits.



Problem: Misplaced Source Credit

Vladimir Putin has promised various reforms. (Rowen.) Jump-starting Russia's economy, fighting government dishonesty, and strengthening the nation are among his goals.

The writer has placed the source credit in the wrong place-at the beginning, rather than the end, of a passage.

Remember! Credit your source immediately after you have used it.



Problem: Mix of Credited and Uncredited Quotations

A pro-market "democratic reformer," Vladimir Putin has vowed to "revitalize the foundering economy," fight corruption, and build a strong Russia. (Rowen.)

The writer has used quotation marks around some of the words, which is the correct way to treat words that are copied exactly. However, the writer has copied other words without using quotation marks.

Remember! All exact words from a source need to be enclosed in quotation marks. Using quotation marks in your research notes will help you remember where words came from.



Solution: Successful Paraphrasing

Putin has promised various reforms, including better government integrity. He is seen as wanting to advance both democracy and economic growth. (Rowen.)

This is successful because:

  • The writer used key information from the source, but changed both the sentence structure and the wording.
  • The writer used a source credit after the information.


Solution: Successful Paraphrasing with a Credited Quotation

Rowen calls Putin a "pro-market democratic reformer," noting his promises to advance government integrity and economic growth. (Rowen.)

This is successful because:

  • The writer successfully paraphrases the source, changing both the sentence structure and the wording.
  • The words that are copied exactly from the source have been enclosed by quotation marks.
  • The writer used a source credit after the information.



Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Did you know?
The first team to win the World Series was the Boston Red Sox in 1903.

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