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4.5: Avoiding Plagiarism

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    Plagiarism—the use of someone else’s words or ideas as though they were your own— is a very serious offense. KCC counts plagiarism as a Violation of Academic Integrity. You can read more about disciplinary procedures in the Student Handbook .

    If you’ve read this far into our handbook, you’re most likely not the kind of student who is looking to turn in an eight-page research paper on cloning that you bought from However, you might still have some questions about what constitutes fair usage of a source. Here are some guidelines to follow when integrating outside material into your writing:

    1. When in doubt, cite it—both in the body of the paper and on a Works Cited (MLA), References (APA), or Bibliography (CMS) page.
    2. If it’s fairly common knowledge (i.e. smoking causes cancer, over half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theatre in April of 1865), you don’t need to cite it.
    3. Most students realize that direct quotations must be credited to the original source or author. However, you also need to give credit for anything you’ve paraphrased or summarized. Merely changing a few words does not make someone else’s work your own.
    4. Try to strike a balance between quoting and paraphrasing; too much of either gets predictable and boring. Some situations call for a powerful direct quotation, but there are other times when a paraphrase allows you to exhibit your understanding of the material.
    5. A successful paraphrase re-states a passage using different words and structure.

    Case Study: Three Student Paraphrases of the Same Source

    Original Passage

    Scientific evidence increasingly suggests that, amid all the texting, poking and surfing, our children’s digital lives are turning them into much different creatures from us—and not necessarily for the better... We know the dangers of texting or talking on the phone while operating a motor vehicle—but what about when forming a brain? A Kaiser Family Foundation report released last year found that on average, children ages 8 to 18 spend 7 hours and 38 minutes a day using entertainment media.

    Dalton Conley from “Wired for Distraction: Kids and Social Media” / Time / 2011 / pages 55-56

    Student 1

    Writer Dalton Conley cites scientific evidence to suggest that children’s online lives are turning them into very different animals than their parents—and this isn’t necessarily a good thing. We know the perils of texting while operating a car, but what about when shaping a brain? One Kaiser Family Foundation report found that on average, children and adolescents spend over seven hours a day using electronic media (55).

    Work Cited Conley, Dalton. “Wired for Distraction: Kids and Social Media.” Time, 21 Feb. 2011, pp. 55-56.

    VERDICT—Plagiarism: Despite a signal phrase identifying the author, and a parenthetical citation at the end, this student borrows far too much of the wording and structure of the original passage. This is often referred to as the “thesaurus paraphrase”: you look up a few synonyms and replace words here and there. Simply put, this is a careless paraphrase.

    Student 2

    Just how prevalent have technology and social media become in the life of a young person? According to one study, children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend nearly one third of each day connected to some form of “entertainment media” (Conley 55). In turn, experts fear that so much multitasking could have some unintended cognitive effects on this particular generation (55).

    Work Cited Conley, Dalton. “Wired for Distraction: Kids and Social Media.” Time, 21 Feb. 2011, pp. 55-56.

    VERDICT—Safe Use of Source Material in MLA Format: Although the second half of this is more summary than paraphrase, the writer has safely captured the main point and carefully converted the statistic. In addition, the parenthetical documentation clearly identifies the source both times it’s used.

    Student 3

    As Conley (2011) reports, children and adolescents are now typically spending nearly eight hours of each day connected to some form of social or electronic media, according to one Kaiser Family Foundation study. Conley wonders what kind of effect such multitasking is having on this “wired” generation, a group whose “digital lives are turning them into much different creatures” than their parents (p. 55).

    Reference Conley, D. (2011, March 19). Wired for distraction: Kids and social media. Time. Retrieved from article/0,9171,2048363,00.html

    VERDICT—Safe Use of Source Material in APA Format: The student has carefully reworded the original text but has kept key information and concepts. The material is presented in a different structure than the original, and the ideas and wording are safely attributed to the author of the article. Notice this student found the same article online.

    This page titled 4.5: Avoiding Plagiarism is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Frost & Samra et al..

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