There are some actions that can almost unquestionably be labeled plagiarism. Some of these include buying, stealing, or borrowing a paper (including, of course, copying an entire paper or article from the Web); hiring someone to write your paper for you; and copying large sections of text from a source without quotation marks or proper citation.
But then there are actions that are usually in more of a gray area. Some of these include using the words of a source too closely when paraphrasing (where quotation marks should have been used) or building on someone's ideas without citing their spoken or written work. Sometimes teachers suspecting students of plagiarism will consider the students' intent, and whether it appeared the student was deliberately trying to make ideas of others appear to be his or her own.
However, other teachers and administrators may not distinguish between deliberate and accidental plagiarism. So let's look at some strategies for avoiding even suspicion of plagiarism in the first place
The key to avoiding plagiarism is to make sure you give credit where it is due. This may be credit for something somebody said, wrote, emailed, drew, or implied. Many professional organizations, including the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA), have lengthy guidelines for citing sources. However, students are often so busy trying to learn the rules of MLA format and style or APA format and style that they sometimes forget exactly what needs to be credited. Here, then, is a brief list of what needs to be credited or documented:
Bottom line, document any words, ideas, or other productions that originate somewhere outside of you.
There are, of course, certain things that do not need documentation or credit, including:
Generally speaking, you can regard something as common knowledge if you find the same information undocumented in at least five credible sources. Additionally, it might be common knowledge if you think the information you're presenting is something your readers will already know, or something that a person could easily find in general reference sources. But when in doubt, cite; if the citation turns out to be unnecessary, your teacher or editor will tell you.
a. "Plagiarism is the academic and literary equivalent of robbery, taking somebody else's property. If you copy somebody's test answers, take an essay from a magazine and pass it off as your own, lift a well-phrased sentence or two and include them without
crediting the author or using quotation marks, or even pass off somebody's good ideas as examples of your own genius, you are guilty of intellectual thievery. If you are caught you should expect punishment or contempt or both."
Quote from Robert M. Gorrell and Charlton Laid, Modern English Handbook, 6th edition (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1976), p. 71.
b. Plagiarism covers unpublished as well as published sources; borrowing another's term paper, handing in as one's own work a paper purchased from an individual or agency, or submitting as one's own papers from living group, club, or organization files;
all are punishable as plagiarism.
a. whenever you quote another person's actual words;
b. whenever you see another person's idea, opinion, or theory, even if it is completely paraphrased in your own words; and
c. whenever you borrow facts, statistics, or other illustrative material-unless the information is common knowledge."
William W. Watt, An American Rhetoric, 4th edition (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1970) p. 8.
The form and standard for attribution and acknowledgment of literary indebtedness is set by each discipline. Students should consult with their department or with recognized handbooks in their field if in doubt.
The ethical standards outlined in the above definition of plagiarism and suggestions for its avoidance govern all relationships in academe. Hence, the guidelines apply to faculty and research assistants in their possible use of students' and colleagues' research and ideas, as well as to student use of source materials and authorities and student use of other students' ideas and work.
- From Appendix F: Academic Conduct, Academic Honesty, and Student Grievance Procedures in the Kansas State University Faculty Handbook (FSM 4-11-89, 10-10-89) at http://www-personal.ksu.edu/~lyman/english320/honesty-FH.htm
There are some intellectual challenges that all students are faced with when writing. Sometimes these challenges can almost seem like contradictions, particularly when addressing them within a single paper. For example, American teachers often instruct students to:
Develop a topic based on
what has already been said and written
Rely on experts' and authorities' opinions
Give credit to previous researchers
Improve your English to fit into a discourse community by building upon what you hear and read
Write something new and original
Improve upon and/or disagree with those same opinions
Make your own significant contribution
Use your own words and your own voice