How Do I… Avoid Plagiarism?
What is Plagiarism?
There are two circumstances that could give rise to a charge of plagiarism.
Cheating (Intentional Plagiarism)
Intentional plagiarism is where one knowingly appropriates the work of others and passes it off as their own. This can include:
- Copying entire documents and presenting them as your own
- Cutting and pasting from the work of others without properly citing the authors
- Stringing together the quotes and ideas of others without connecting their work to your own original work
- Asserting ideas without acknowledging their sources, reproducing sentences written verbatim by others without properly quoting and attributing the work to them
- Making only minor changes to the words or phrasing of another’s work, without properly citing the authors
Intentional plagiarism can also involve inventing sources to which you would attribute your own ideas to make them seem credible. Intentional plagiarists can be either ignorant of the seriousness of the offense, or disrespectful of the seriousness of the offense.
Misuse of Sources (Unintentional Plagiarism)
Unintentional plagiarism, or the misuse of sources, is the accidental appropriation of the ideas and materials of others due to a lack of understanding of the conventions of citation and documentation. This could include:
- A lack of understanding of paraphrasing
- Not being clear about the parameters of common knowledge
- Not being clear about the statute of limitations on the attribution of ideas.
Since rules of attribution are culturally determined, much of unintentional plagiarism could also be the result of writers not understanding the sanctity with which American academics endow the concept of idea ownership. The misuse of sources can be the result of ignorance or laziness, but is not the result of a desire to cheat.
How to Avoid It
- Be familiar with the WSU definition of and policies concerning plagiarism.
- Be sure you understand your instructors’ policies concerning plagiarism.
Gathering Research Materials
- Allow time to make multiple trips to the library: Start your research early and consult reference librarians to learn about the best research tools for your topic.
- Get extra sources: Get your research done early and get extra sources. You don’t have to use them all, but if you find there is a source you can’t use, you’ll have back up.
- Expect it will take extra time to receive materials not available on your WSU campus: Search It and Interlibrary Loans make millions of resources available, but items not on your campus take from three days to two weeks to receive.
- Color code your notes: Be sure to distinguish between places where you are paraphrasing others’ ideas versus directly quoting from a source.
- Use author and page notation: Make sure that every note you take is connected to the source’s author and page number. In addition, keep a running bibliography of complete citation information for each source used.
- Keep a research log: It is helpful to keep a log of the catalogs, indexes, and databases you have consulted during the research process along with search terms used. This will help prevent repetitive searching.
- Quote sparingly: Use quotes only when the author’s choice of words to express his/her idea perfectly capture the point. No instructor wants to receive a written product that is basically a string of quotes.
- Use proper quoting mechanics: Be sure to use quotation marks around the text you are quoting. Also, include the author’s name before or after the quotation and indicate added phrases with brackets [ ] and omitted text with ellipses …
- Incorporate a citation: You must include citation elements in the sentence(s) you are quoting. These citation elements include author’s name, page number, and year, with the exact format varying across style manuals.
- Samples: The WSU Libraries offer citation quick guides to help you create citations for your sources.
Paraphrasing and Summarizing
- Use your interpretation: Without looking at the original text, craft your paraphrase or summary. Be sure you are using unique words and phrases and reordering clauses within the sentence. It is plagiarism to simply reorder words within a sentence or sentences within a paragraph.
- Incorporate a citation: You must include citation elements in the sentence(s) you are paraphrasing or summarizing. These citation elements include author’s name, page number, and year, with the exact format varying across style manuals.
No Need to Cite Your Source
- Using your own work: You do not need to cite your own thoughts, ideas, written products, or research.
- Drawing on common knowledge: You do not need to cite information classified as common knowledge. Examples of common knowledge include indisputable facts known by large numbers of people, and common sense observations.
Learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it in our Plagiarism Tutorial.