OWL at Purdue Logo

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/). When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice at bottom.

Contributors:Karl Stolley, Allen Brizee, Joshua M. Paiz.
Summary:

There are few intellectual offenses more serious than plagiarism in academic and professional contexts. This resource offers advice on how to avoid plagiarism in your work.

Overview and Contradictions

Research-based writing in American institutions, both educational and corporate, is filled with rules that writers, particularly beginners, aren't aware of or don't know how to follow. Many of these rules have to do with research and proper citation. Gaining familiarity with these rules, however, is critically important, as inadvertent mistakes can lead to charges of plagiarism, which is the uncredited use (both intentional and unintentional) of somebody else's words or ideas.

While some rhetorical traditions may not insist so heavily on documenting sources of words, ideas, images, sounds, etc., American academic rhetorical tradition does. A charge of plagiarism can have severe consequences, including expulsion from a university or loss of a job, not to mention a writer's loss of credibility and professional standing. This resource, which does not reflect any official university policy, is designed to help you develop strategies for knowing how to avoid accidental plagiarism. For instructors seeking a key statement on definitions and avoidance on plagiarism, see Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices.

(Purdue University students will want to make sure that they are familiar with Purdue's official academic dishonesty policy as well as any additional policies that their instructors have implemented.)

Intellectual challenges in American academic writing

There are some intellectual challenges that all students are faced with when writing. Sometimes these challenges can almost seem like contradictions, particularly when addressing them within a single paper. For example, American teachers often instruct students to:

Develop a topic based on
what has already been said and written

BUT  

Write something
new and original

Rely on experts' and authorities' opinions

BUT   

Improve upon and/or disagree with those same opinions

Give credit to previous researchers

BUT 

Make your own significant    contribution

Improve your English to fit into a
discourse community by building upon what you hear and read

BUT 

Use your own words and your own voice

For instructor and student documents on preventing plagiarism, please
visit these resources on the Purdue OWL.

Contributors:Karl Stolley, Allen Brizee, Joshua M. Paiz.
Summary:

There are few intellectual offenses more serious than plagiarism in academic and professional contexts. This resource offers advice on how to avoid plagiarism in your work.

Is It Plagiarism Yet?

There are some actions that can almost unquestionably be labeled plagiarism. Some of these include buying, stealing, or borrowing a paper (including, of course, copying an entire paper or article from the Web); hiring someone to write your paper for you; and copying large sections of text from a source without quotation marks or proper citation.

But then there are actions that are usually in more of a gray area. Some of these include using the words of a source too closely when paraphrasing (where quotation marks should have been used) or building on someone's ideas without citing their spoken or written work. Sometimes teachers suspecting students of plagiarism will consider the students' intent, and whether it appeared the student was deliberately trying to make ideas of others appear to be his or her own.

However, other teachers and administrators may not distinguish between deliberate and accidental plagiarism. So let's look at some strategies for avoiding even suspicion of plagiarism in the first place

When do we give credit?

The key to avoiding plagiarism is to make sure you give credit where it is due. This may be credit for something somebody said, wrote, emailed, drew, or implied. Many professional organizations, including the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA), have lengthy guidelines for citing sources. However, students are often so busy trying to learn the rules of MLA format and style or APA format and style that they sometimes forget exactly what needs to be credited. Here, then, is a brief list of what needs to be credited or documented:

Bottom line, document any words, ideas, or other productions that originate somewhere outside of you.

There are, of course, certain things that do not need documentation or credit, including:

Deciding if something is "common knowledge"

Generally speaking, you can regard something as common knowledge if you find the same information undocumented in at least five credible sources. Additionally, it might be common knowledge if you think the information you're presenting is something your readers will already know, or something that a person could easily find in general reference sources. But when in doubt, cite; if the citation turns out to be unnecessary, your teacher or editor will tell you.

Contributors:Karl Stolley, Allen Brizee, Joshua M. Paiz.
Summary:

There are few intellectual offenses more serious than plagiarism in academic and professional contexts. This resource offers advice on how to avoid plagiarism in your work.

Safe Practices

Most students, of course, don't intend to plagiarize. In fact, most realize that citing sources actually builds their credibility for an audience and even helps writers to better grasp information relevant to a topic or course of study. Mistakes in citation and crediting can still happen, so here are certain practices that can help you not only avoid plagiarism, but even improve the efficiency and organization of your research and writing.

Best Practices for Research and Drafting

Reading and note-taking

Interviewing and conversing

Writing paraphrases or summaries

Writing direct quotations

Writing about another's ideas

Maintaining drafts of your paper

Sometimes innocent, hard-working students are accused of plagiarism because a dishonest student steals their work. This can happen in all kinds of ways, from a roommate copying files off of your computer, to someone finding files on a disk or on a pen drive left in a computer lab. Here are some practices to keep your own intellectual property safe:

Revising, proofreading, and finalizing your paper

Works Cited

Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools. New York: Crown      Publishers, Inc., 1992. Print.

Contributors:Karl Stolley, Allen Brizee, Joshua M. Paiz.
Summary:

There are few intellectual offenses more serious than plagiarism in academic and professional contexts. This resource offers advice on how to avoid plagiarism in your work.

Safe Practices: An Exercise

Read over each of the following passages, and respond on your own or as a class as to whether or not it uses citations accurately. If it doesn't, what would you do to improve the passage so it's properly cited?

1. Last summer, my family and I traveled to Chicago, which was quite different from the rural area I grew up in. We saw the dinosaur Sue at the Field Museum, and ate pizza at Gino's East.

2. Americans want to create a more perfect union; they also want to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for everybody.

3. I find it ridiculous that 57% of high school students think their teachers assign too much homework.

Numbers 4, 5, and 6 all refer to the following passage from Martin Luther King's "Letter from the Birmingham Jail":

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

4. Martin Luther King was certain that nobody would want to be contented with a feigning type of social analysis that concerns itself only with effects and doesn't deal with root causes.

5. Martin Luther King wrote that the city of Birmingham's "white power structure" left African-Americans there "no alternative" but to demonstrate ("Letter from the Birmingham Jail" para. 5).

6. In "Letter from the Birmingham Jail," King writes to fellow clergy saying that although they "deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham, your statement fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations."

7. My friend Kara told me that she loves living so close to the ocean.

8. Americans are guaranteed the right to freely gather for peaceful meetings.

Contributors:Karl Stolley, Allen Brizee, Joshua M. Paiz.
Summary:

There are few intellectual offenses more serious than plagiarism in academic and professional contexts. This resource offers advice on how to avoid plagiarism in your work.

Best Practices for Teachers

Suspecting a student of plagiarism is never pleasant; proving a student has plagiarized is even worse. It's common for teachers to feel offended and hurt when students have acted unethically in their courses. But there are some things you, as a teacher, can do to minimize plagiarism in your classes. Click here for more resources on how to prevent plagiarism in the classroom.

Developing a strong course policy on plagiarism

One can never be too direct in explaining to students what actions can be considered plagiarism in their class. Writing and providing to students a course policy statement that includes a section on plagiarism is an excellent first step. Be sure to include and cite any school policies that might be suspect.

Here, for example, is a statement that Professor Irwin Weiser of Purdue University has used with his Introductory Composition courses:

The following statement about honesty and the use of sources is from the Introduction to First-Year Composition Courses:

When writers use material from other sources, they must acknowledge this source. Not doing so is called plagiarism, which means using without credit the ideas or expressions of another. You are therefore cautioned (1) against using, word for word, without acknowledgment, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, etc., from the printed or manuscript material of others; (2) against using with only slight changes the materials of another; and (3) against using the general plan, the main headings, or a rewritten form of someone else's material. These cautions apply to the work of other students as well as to the published work of professional writers.

Of course, these cautions also apply to information you find on the Internet, World Wide Web, or other electronic or on-line sources. Since we will be discussing how to acknowledge and cite sources, you should be able to avoid accidentally plagiarizing anyone else's work. If you are in doubt, please ask me, since the consequences for plagiarism are severe. The university policies about plagiarism include penalties ranging from failure of an assignment to expulsion from the university. In this class, anyone who plagiarizes fails the course, and I will probably inform the Office of the Dean of Students of the reason for the failing grade.

Contributors:Karl Stolley, Allen Brizee, Joshua M. Paiz.
Summary:

There are few intellectual offenses more serious than plagiarism in academic and professional contexts. This resource offers advice on how to avoid plagiarism in your work.

Plagiarism Lesson Plans and Exercises

Heading

This is where Ehren and Cris's stuff is going.

Title of Activity Objectives Time Est.
Materials Brief Explanation Computer Lab Option