What is and what is not plagiarism
by Holly Hartman
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:
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.
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.
Unacceptable paraphrasing and misuse of credits are the most common causes of accidental plagiarism. Here are examples of these problems-and some solutions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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