Why is Plagiarism a Problem?
Plagiarism is essentially taking credit for something that is not yours. The references in your text should be there to build on and lend evidence to your own ideas and conclusions. In many cases, not properly referencing text (either by using too many quotes or not properly summarizing/paraphrasing) shows that you do not have a full understanding of the material.
Plagiarism can damage your integrity as a researcher. You could be charged with theft of intellectual property. As a student, you might be charged with academic dishonesty.
Tips to Avoid Plagiarism
- Never copy and paste text
- Quote, summarize, and paraphrase
- Cite your sources
- Research your topic thoroughly
- Use reference management software (such as EndNote and Mendeley)
- Check your document using iThenticate
Referring to Your Sources
There are three ways to reference sources: quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing. All three of these methods must still be accompanied by a citation.
Quoting is using text word-for-word from the source material. Quoted text must be surrounded by quotation marks (or in a block quote for longer quotations). Quotes should be used sparingly, but they made be used for four reasons (adapted from “Avoiding Plagiarism” by Dr. Dan Reardon, 2016):
The exact wording is written so perfectly or is so original that there is no better way to say it.
The original wording is so complex that you must show it before proceeding with your explanation.
The readers might not believe the wording unless you reproduce it verbatim.
You disagree with the author’s point and want to show the exact wording for fairness.
The exact wording supports or gives evidence to your claim.
Quoted text should be introduced and be accompanied by a citation, such as in the following examples:
- Johnson (2010) concluded, “Pattern B is more stable and reliable than Pattern A.”
- Past comparisons have concluded that this pattern “is more stable and reliable” than the other (Johnson, 2010).
Summarizing involves condensing a passage into a sentence or two, focusing on the main idea of the passage. In a summary, you will put the main idea or general concept of a passage into your own words. Summaries must be accompanied by a citation.
Paraphrasing involves putting a passage into your own words. A paraphrased passage is usually shorter than the original passage, but longer than a summary. Paraphrases must be accompanied by a citation.
Paraphrasing does not mean replacing a few words with synonyms. If you change only a few words in a paraphrase, it will likely be considered plagiarism.
Steps to Properly Paraphrase:
Read the passage and think about the author’s meaning
Put the passage away (close out of window, close the book, close your eyes, etc.)
Write your paraphrase without looking at the source material
Cite your source
Refer back to original passage to ensure your information is correct
iThenticate is a website that will help you identify potential plagiarism by highlighting text that appears verbatim (or with a few missing words) in other documents within their database.
To check that you have properly quoted, paraphrased, summarized, and cited your sources, upload your document to iThenticate and review the passages it has highlighted. Keep in mind that not everything highlighted will be plagiarism (it will also highlight common phrases, titles, bibliographies, etc.), but it will help you check that your quotes are properly cited (they should be word-for-word, but within quotation marks and followed by a citation) and that your paraphrases are in your own words.
How do I Cite Sources?
- Take note of the references you use and where individual passages come from, including the page number. An easy way to do this is to use software like EndNote and Mendeley, which allow you to make notes about each reference.
- Determine which citation style you should use (common options are APA and IEEE; this might vary depending on which field you’re in or which journal you are writing for)
- Refer to the style manual associated with that citation style to build your list of references and in-text citations (EndNote and Mendeley can help with this too!)
- Cite in-text references (usually just author and date or number of citation) and list all citations in a list of references at the end of your document (usually the full reference, including author, date, title, and other publication information)
- Do not list citations that you do not refer to within your paper
Things You Don’t Have to Cite
When information is common knowledge or a generally accepted fact, it does not require a citation. However, it can sometimes be tricky to determine if something is common knowledge. (When in doubt, it’s best to cite the source.)
You also do not need to cite your own results, conclusions, or experiences, unless you are referring to work you have previously published (in which case, you would cite your document like any other source)