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English as an Additional Language: Avoiding Plagiarism

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Defining Plagiarism

The following definition of plagiarism can be found in the University of Winnipeg Academic Misconduct Policy:

“Plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty in which students present published or unpublished work (written, digital, or other) of another person or persons, or one’s own prior work, in its entirety or in part, as their own original work.”

Every student is expected to produce work that follows the rules of academic integrity, so avoiding plagiarism is a fundamental skill in university. To be clear, you will generally be expected to use other people’s ideas to support the points in your paper, but the source of every idea that isn’t your own needs to be cited in a suitable format.

There are two ways that plagiarism can happen: intentionally and unintentionally. We’ll talk about each here.

Intentional Plagiarism

With the abundance of information available online, it’s incredibly easy to take credit for something you didn’t write, if that’s your intention. However, simply copying information from a website or blog and pasting it into your paper without crediting the source is considered plagiarism. Add this to the act of getting someone (or paying them) to write your paper for you, which is clearly unethical, and you have an idea of how intentional plagiarism happens.

As easy as it is, though, it’s also very easy to detect. If you plagiarize something, your professor only needs to do a couple of simple Google searches to figure it out. Also, in recent years years, professors have started using software programs (e.g. Turnitin) to detect how original their students’ work is, so catching plagiarizers has also become much easier.

Unintentional Plagiarism

Plagiarism can also happen by accident. This usually results from sloppy note-taking or by writing your paper in a rush. Even if you accidentally use another person’s idea without credit, you are still plagiarizing them. Also, most students don’t realize it’s possible to plagiarize yourself, by using your own published ideas without citation.

Basically, any idea that comes from a source (books, articles, websites, videos, previous papers, etc.) needs to be cited.

There can be serious penalties for plagiarism (again, see the Academic Misconduct Policy). It isn’t worth it to try, and taking the time to properly cite and reference your sources isn’t too difficult once you get in the habit.

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Don’t procrastinate.
  • Create a reference for all your sources, in the format outlined by your prof.
  • Take detailed notes as your read each source, noting the page numbers for each idea.
  • Paraphrase major points and indicate if an idea is a direct quote.
  • In your paper, properly cite all the ideas from your sources.
  • Create a bibliography or works cited, including references for all your sources.

Avoiding Plagiarism

PLAGIARISM is using others ideas and words without clearly acknowledging the source of that information.
In the preparation of essays and projects, we continually engage with other people's ideas: we read them in books, hear them in lectures, discuss them in class. When we begin to write essays, and incorporate these ideas into our own writing, it is very important that we give credit where it is due.

Avoiding plagiarism
To avoid plagiarism you must give credit whenever you :

  • use another person's idea, opinion, or theory
  • use any facts, statistics, graphs, drawings, etc that are not common knowledge
  • use quotations of another person's actual spoken or written words
  • paraphrase another person's spoken or written words.

How to recognise unacceptable paraphrase, ie, plagiarism

The following ORIGINAL text has been taken from the book: The Google Story.

“Not since Gutenberg invented the modern printing press more than 500 years ago, making books and scientific tomes affordable and widely available to the masses, has any new invention empowered individuals, and transformed access to information, as profoundly as Google.”
From: Vise, David A. (2005) The Google Story. Macmillan: London

Unacceptable paraphrase that is plagiarism:

The most important invention that has affected access to information since Gutenberg invented the modern printing press and made books affordable and widely available, is Google, an invention that has empowered individuals and transformed access to information around the world.

This passage is considered plagiarism because:

  • The writer does not cite the author as the source of the ideas
  • The passage is too close to the original text. Only a few phrases or words have been changed.

Here's an ACCEPTABLE paraphrase:

It has been stated that Google has revolutionised the information world by providing access to information through the internet. Vise notes that not since Gutenberg invented the modern press has any new invention empowered individuals and transformed access to information as profoundly as Google. (Vise, 2005 p. 1)

This is ACCEPTABLE paraphrasing because:

  • The author of the text has been cited correctly
  • The writer has used their own words
  • The writer gives credit for the ideas in the passage

Directly Quoting The Text

Google has revolutionised the way people access information in today’s information technological society. “Not since Gutenberg invented the modern printing press ... has any new invention empowered individuals, and transformed access to information, as profoundly as Google.” (Vise, 2005 p. 1) Google’s easy to use search engine enables users to access information quickly and efficiently through various options, including Google Scholar and Google Book Search.

This is the correct way to use a direct quote because:

  • The direct quote is in quotations
  • The page number has been included

Strategies for avoiding plagiarism:

    • Put in quotations everything that comes directly from the text especially when taking notes.
    • Paraphrase, but be sure you are not just rearranging or replacing a few words. - Instead, read over what you want to paraphrase carefully; cover up the text with your hand, or close the text so you can't see any of it (and so aren't tempted to use the text as a guide). Write out the idea in your own words without peeking.
    • Check your paraphrase against the original text to be sure you have not accidentally used the same phrases or words, and that the information is accurate.

When to use quotations

    • when the exact words are relevant to your argument;
    • when something is expressed in an unique way,
    • when rewriting would cause loss of impact

Short quotations can make a strong impact. When using someone's words you must use quotation marks, and state precisely where the quotation comes from - ie. cite the author, date and page number at the end of the quotation.

How to use quotations

  • Place a short quotation into the text (fewer than 40 words), using double quotation marks. Longer quotations should begin on a new line, and be in a free-standing block of typewritten lines
  • Place the passage you are using in quotation marks, and give the author/source information. The following example uses the APA citation style
  • Within a quotation use three dots (.) to indicate omitted words

He stated that Google has, "empowered individuals and transformed access to information " ( Vise, 2005 p. 1)
Vise (2005) argues that Google has "empowered individuals and transformed access to information" ( p. 1).

Writing about others' work

When you decide to use a citation you may need to use a reporting verb to integrate it into your text. For example "Hudson (2004) identifies the benefits of videocounselling for families of teenagers with epilepsy (p. 76). - Note the page details are given at the end of each sentence.

Examples of ACTIVE verbs

Vise (2005) established that . (p. 27)
Vise (2005) examined the issue from a different perspective. (p. 27).
Referring to "transformed access to information", Vise (2005) states that . (p. 27).
Vise (2005) contends that . (p. 27)

Examples of PASSIVE verbs

Vise (2005) claimed that . (p. 27)
Vise (2005) suggests that . (p. 27)
Three possible intrepretations of these results have been suggested (Vise, 2005, p27)
According to Vise (2005) . (p. 276)

Note that it is also possible to cite an author without using a reporting verb. Simply restate the authors point of view - in your own words, or use the phrase "according to".
For example " According to Malley (2004, p.25) the accidental plagiarist is one who doesn't understand plagiarism"

Plagiarism and the World Wide Web:

The Web has become a popular source of information for student papers. To avoid plagiarizing these sources follow the same guidelines as print sources:

  • When referring to ideas or quotations from a website, you must cite that source
  • When copying visual information or graphics from a website the source of the visual information or graphic must be cited
  • When citing information found on a website, note the date the website was accessed, and cite the URL in the text only. It may not be necessary to cite a website in the reference list. 

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