the unacknowledged use of somebody else’s words
Actions that might be seen as plagiarism:
- buying, stealing, or borrowing a paper
- using the source too closely when paraphrasing
- building on someone’s ideas without citation
- hiring someone to write your paper
- copying from another source without citing
** Since teachers may not distinguish between deliberate and accidental plagiarism, the heart of avoiding plagiarism is to make sure you give credit where it is due. **
Choosing When to Give Credit
You need to document when:
- you are using or referring to somebody else’s words or ideas from a magazine, book, newspaper, song, web page, etc.
- you use information gained from an interview.
- you copy the exact words or a “unique phrase.”
- you reprint diagrams, illustration, charts, etc.
You do not need to document when:
- you are writing your own experiences, observations, thoughts, or conclusions about a subject.
- you are using common knowledge, common sense, or shared information.
- you are compiling generally accepted facts.
- you are writing up your own experimental results.
Making Sure You Are Safe
When researching, note-taking, and interviewing:
- mark everything that is someone else’s words with quotation marks or a big Q.
- label which notes are taken from sources (S) and which are your own (M).
- record all relevant documentation in your notes (name, publisher, date, page numbers, etc.).
When paraphrasing and summarizing:
- write your paraphrase and summary without looking at the original text, so you rely only on your memory.
- check your version with the original for content, accuracy, and mistakenly borrowed phrases.
Deciding if something is “common knowledge”
Material is probably common knowledge if . . .
- you find the same information undocumented in at least five other sources.
- you think it is information that your readers will already know.
- you think a person could easily find the information with general reference sources.