At its core, plagiarism is the unauthorized use of information from another person’s work without crediting that person correctly. Committing plagiarism in your paper, whether intentionally or accidentally, can lead to serious consequences for your grade and academic career. By backing up your ideas with credible sources, you can easily avoid the trap of plagiarism, and promote further research on your topic. To help people find your unique perspective and to create consistency throughout your work, it is always a good idea to use a specific, standardized citation style (for example, APA format and MLA style).
While it is seldom discussed, it is also possible to commit self-plagiarism. It is tempting to think that since you have written material on a topic before, that work can be repurposed at will without any citations. This is poor writing ethics, however, and should be prevented as much as possible. Copyright infringement is also a common outcome of self-plagiarism. When an author publishes something like a scholarly article, the copyright is often given to the research journal that the article was originally published in. Repurposing this work and publishing it somewhere else without referencing the original could violate the copyright agreement and cause legal issues.
Including accurate citations in your paper not only prevents you from committing plagiarism, but also makes you a better writer and researcher. Proper citations demonstrate a breadth of your reading and dedication to the project itself. By creating citations, you will be compelled to make connections between the sources you are using and to discern research patterns.
So, think you know how to identify plagiarism like a pro?
See if you can beat a citation expert by answering all of these questions correctly!
Decide if each of the following scenarios is an instance of plagiarism.
1. Taking information from an outside source and presenting it as your own.
This is the basic definition of plagiarism.
2. Examining the works of others to gather information for your research.
Using outside sources in your subject area is being a good researcher! Just make sure to cite your sources. Learn how to do a works cited page here.
3. Making use of the works of others to support your own ideas.
You can feel free to use others’ information or ideas to support your own, as long as you cite them correctly.
4. Using the same essay you wrote for one assignment and handing it in for another assignment.
This is called “self-plagiarism.”
5. Taking text from a source, changing one or two words, and putting it in your paper with a citation.
Using too many words from the original source is plagiarism, even if you provide a reference. Instead, you can quote or paraphrase the source with a citation.
6. Copying a diagram from a website and including it in your paper with a citation underneath.
Not plagiarism. This is acceptable in most citation styles, but check your manual for more information.
7. Using the work of another student to create your own paper.
Yes, it's plagiarism! Even though another student may not be a published author, their work is still their own.
8. Having someone look over your paper and discussing how to improve it.
No, it's not! It’s always a good idea to get another pair of eyes on your work before handing it in. Just be sure that the ideas you include are still your own.
9. Using data an author presents from a different author, but not citing the original work.
You must cite the work where you found the data, as well as the original source of the data.
10. Including information from a personal communication, like an email, without providing a citation.
Personal communications like texts and emails must be cited just like any other source if you’re using information from them in your paper.