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5.3: Avoiding Plagiarism

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    Plagiarism is a problem that exists not only on college, university, and high school campuses. In recent years, several high profile cases, some involving famous writers and journalists have surfaced, in which the these writers were accused of either presenting someone else work as their own or fabricating works based on fictitious or unreliable research. 

    With the advent of the Internet, it has become relatively easy to download complete papers. Various people and organizations, sometimes masquerading as “writing consultants” promise students that they would write a paper on any subject and of any level of complexity for a hefty fee.  Clearly, the use of such services by student writers is dishonest and dishonorable. If your college or university is like mine, it probably has adopted strict policies for dealing with plagiarizing writers. Punishments for intentional plagiarism are severe and may include not only a failing grade for the class but even an expulsion from the university.

    In addition to intentional plagiarism, there is also the unintentional kind. Experience shows that beginning writers’ work sometimes include passages which could be called plagiarized because such writers often do not know how to cite and document external sources properly or do not understand that importance of following proper citation practices. 

    Observing the following practices will help you avoid plagiarism:

    As you research, keep careful notes of your sources. As you take notes for your research project, keep track of what materials in those notes comes from external sources and what material is yours. Keep track of all your sources, including interviews and surveys, photographs and drawings, personal e-mails and conversations. Be sure to record the following information:

    • Author
    • Title
    • Date of publication
    • Publisher

    Remember that when you use external sources, you are borrowing not the words of another writer, but his or her ideas, theories, and opinions. Therefore, even if you summarize or paraphrase a source, be sure to give it full credit. Writers used to have to record this information on separate note cards. However, with the proliferation of online and other electronic tools which allow us to keep track of our research, the task of recording and reflecting on source-related information has become easier.

    Anti-Plagiarism Activity

    Read the following four paragraphs. They are from a research source, an article in The New Yorker magazine. The other three are from student papers which attempt to use the article as an external source. As you read consider the following questions:

    • Would you call the student’s passage or its parts plagiarized from the original? Why or why not?
    • If any parts of the student’s passages are plagiarized what needs to be changed in order to avoid plagiarism?  Keep in mind that you may need to rewrite the whole Paragraph and not just make changes in separate sentences.
    • Which of the student passages will require more significant rewriting than others and why?

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    Source Paragraph (from the article “Personality Plus,” by Malcolm Cladwell. New Yorker, Sept 20, 2004).

    "One of the most popular personality tests in the world is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a psychological-assessment system based on Carl Jung’s notion that people make sense of the world through a series or psychological frames. Some people are extraverts, some are introverts. Some process information through logical thought. Some are directed by their feelings. Some make sense of the world through intuitive leaps. Others collect data through their senses".

    Student Paragraph 1

    The Myers-Briggs Test is a very popular way to assess someone’s personality type. Philosopher Carl Jung believed that people make sense of the world in different ways. Some are extraverts and some and introverts. According to this idea, people process information either by logical reasoning or through intuition or feelings.

    Student Paragraph 2

    According to writer Malcolm Cladwell, One of the most popular personality tests in the world is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a psychological-assessment system based on Carl Jung’s notion that people make sense of the world through a series or psychological frames. Cladwell states that the test is based on the idea by Carl Jung that people make sense of the world through a series of psychological frames. According to Jung, some people are extroverts and some are introverts. Some process information through logical input, and some through feelings. Some make sense of the world through intuitive leaps. Others collect data through their senses.

    Student Paragraph 3

    One of the most popular personality tests in the world is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a psychological-assessment system based on Carl Jung’s notion that people make sense of the world through a series or psychological frames (Cladwell 43). The test is based on Jung’s theory that people understand the world differently. This is why we have extroverts and introverts and people who act either based on reasoning or feelings (Cladwell).

    Major Citation Systems

    In this part of the chapter, I will explain the major citation and documentation systems which you are likely to encounter in your writing for college classes and beyond. The information in this section is not meant to be memorized. Instead, I encourage you to use this material as a reference source, when you are writing a paper and need to cite and document sources correctly, using one of the systems described below, refer to this chapter.

    Please note that the following sections include only the basic information about each of the citation styles. There are plenty of excellent sources explaining and illustrating the differences between citation systems. I recommend the cite of the Online Writing Center at Purdue University.

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