2.7: Learn how to avoid plagiarism
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What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is using another writer's words or ideas without giving them credit. In most literature essays, this means you use someone else's words or ideas without citing them. Other examples of plagiarism include:
- Submitting an essay written by someone else, in whole or in part
- Copying and pasting from another source
- Attempting to cite sources, but doing so incorrectly or in a way where it is unclear which ideas came from your mind and which came from other sources
- Correctly citing all sources, but most of your essay is made up of the words and ideas of others with very little of your own ideas
- Re-using an essay you wrote in a previous class without instructor permission
What are the Consequences of Plagiarism?
Most academics consider plagiarism a serious violation of academic honesty. Basically, by plagiarizing, you are betraying the trust of your instructor, peers, and institution. Consequences for plagiarism can include:
- Having to rewrite an assignment
- Receiving a 0 on the assignment
- Receiving an F in the class
- Being kicked out of the class
- Being kicked out of school
- Having a permanent mark on your transcript
- Being stripped of your degree
- Public admonishment
- Being sued for copyright infringement, which, in extreme cases, can cost millions of dollars (!!!). For example, Marvin Gaye's family was able to win over 5 million dollars when singers Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke plagiarized one of Marvin Gaye's songs!
In most cases, copyright holders will not go after students because students tend not to have a lot of money laying around. That being said, plagiarism can still have serious consequences. Students should avoid plagiarism at all costs.
The consequences of plagiarism depend on many factors, including:
- The severity of the plagiarism
- Repeated plagiarism behavior
- Your instructor
- The course syllabus, which often describes the class policies and consequences for plagiarism
- Your college
- Your college's student handbook, which often describes the campus policies and consequences for plagiarism
Be sure to consult with your instructor and college about their policies on plagiarism.
What is Ethical Attribution?
Ethical attribution is giving credit to those whose words and ideas you use in your essays. In literature essays, ethical attribution has three parts: attributive tags, in-text parenthetical citations, and a Works Cited page to give credit.
Attributive Tags signal to the reader that material from a source is about to appear in the essay.
Example: According to literary critic Harold Bloom....
In-Text Parenthetical Citations tell the reader that the words or ideas from the source have ended. It also tells the reader where to find the original source information on the Works Cited page so they can see the original source themselves
Example: According to the literary critic Harold Bloom, "we are certain from the start that he is indeed King Hamlet's spirit," and not a demon as Horatio seems to suggest (Bloom 4).
Works Cited page
The Works Cited page gives more in-depth bibliographical information so that readers can find the original source. It appears at the end of the essay, on the last page. It should include all sources referenced in the essay.
Bloom, Harold. Hamlet: Poem Unlimited. New York: Riverhead, 2003.
Why Use Ethical Attribution?
There are several reasons to use ethical attribution
- Helps You Avoid Plagiarism. By citing sources correctly, you avoid plagiarism and its consequences.
- Helps You Refine Your Own Ideas. By clearly defining which ideas are your original ideas and which belong to other authors, you are better able to refine your ideas.
- Builds Ethos. By citing sources, you build credibility and trust with your audience. You also improve your essay's scholarly tone by using the formal conventions used by literary scholars, which include in-text and Works Cited citations.
Activity: Check Your Understanding of Plagiarism
Quiz from Excelsior OWL