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Overview and Contradictions

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.

Contributors:Karl Stolley, Allen Brizee, Joshua M. Paiz
Last Edited: 2013-06-07 09:15:35

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.

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