How to Avoid Plagiarism
What is Plagiarism? Generally, plagiarism is claiming you wrote something or came up with an idea that is actually someone else’s. If you “borrow” a direct quotation or an idea from another author, but you fail to cite the source, you are asserting to the reader that the quotation or idea is your own. This is literary theft (plagiarism) and unacceptable whether you are writing a paper for class or submitting an article for publication. It is possible to commit plagiarism with any formal work performed in any medium and in any scholarly discipline, so be careful! In all types of writing, it is expected (read: required) that the author will provide support for a factual argument or assertion by providing citation(s) to authority. Citations are important not just to show support for an argument or assertion. Citations also prevent plagiarism, whether intentional or accidental.
How to Avoid Inadvertent Plagiarism: Take good notes while researching. For example, while reading an article take notes that include the bibliographic information (author, article title, journal title, publisher, etc.) If you read several sources and some time passes, you may read your notes and think that those wonderful insights were yours, not John F. Kennedy’s. Proper citation is necessary whether you use an author’s direct quotation (the most obvious need for a citation) or you paraphrase an author’s idea. It is perfectly acceptable to use another’s words or ideas (in fact, it is expected in most research papers), but you must give the author credit. Make sure you document everything you borrow from another author: direct quotations, paraphrases, information, and ideas.
What about the Works Cited List? Isn’t that Good Enough? No, simply listing a source in your bibliography or Works Cited list is not adequate acknowledgment for specific use of that source in your paper. If you list a source in your bibliography, but do not properly place citations in the text of your paper, you can be charged with plagiarism.
What Kinds of Information Do Not Need to Be Cited? Certain types of information need not be followed by a citation. Common knowledge (George W. Bush is the President of the United States), well-known quotations (“when in doubt, don’t”), and familiar proverbs (“a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”) One of the reasons for this is that few readers are going to mistake those words or ideas for your original words or ideas. They’ve also become part of everyday vernacular.
To Cite or Not to Cite? Not sure whether you should provide a citation? When in doubt, cite. No one will admonish you for citing too much, particularly in scholarly college-level writing.
Other Issues with Plagiarism:
A paper you wrote for another class: Is it okay to submit a paper to a class, then re-print it and turn it in to a second class? No. Although it isn’t the same as stealing someone else’s ideas or words, it is cheating (self-plagiarism). The UMass Academic Honesty Policy also prohibits “submitting all or substantial portions of the same work to fulfill the requirements for more than one course without the prior permission of the instructor(s), including self-plagiarism.” What if you don’t turn in the exact paper you did for another class but re-work it a bit? Ask the professor of your current class if this is acceptable.
Collaborative work: If you do a group project, don’t submit the work unless you give credit to those with whom you worked. If you are expected to turn in a research paper that you wrote by yourself (the case in most classes, including your capstone course), don’t submit a group project even if you give the group credit.
UMass Academic Honesty Policy: The Policy is available online at: http://www.umass.edu/dean_students/code_conduct/acad_honest.htm. The UMass Amherst Academic Honesty Policy (appendix B) provides examples of academic dishonesty, which includes plagiarism. The Policy defines plagiarism as “the representation of the words or ideas of another as one’s own work in any academic exercise.” It further states that this includes:
failing to properly identify direct quotations by quotation marks or appropriate indentation and formal citation; failing to acknowledge and properly cite paraphrasing or summarizing material from another source; failing to acknowledge and properly cite information obtained from the Internet or other electronic media as well as other sources; and submitting term papers written by another, including those obtained from commercial term paper companies or the internet.
How to Avoid Plagiarism