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Cite Your Sources: Plagiarism

Tools for creating bibliographies in MLA, APA, Chicago, and other styles.

The Facts About Plagiarism

What is Plagiarism?

“Plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty that is considered a serious offense and carries severe penalties ranging from failing an assignment to suspension from school. You are guilty of plagiarism any time you attempt to obtain academic credit by presenting someone else’s ideas or words as your own without appropriately documenting the original source.” Source: Hudson Valley Community College’s Plagiarism Policy.

Copying another person's words or ideas without proper acknowledgement is cheating. It is regarded as a serious academic offense that can result in serious disciplinary action.

The Complete Guide to Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism

Types of Plagiarism

Direct Plagiarism
Is a word-for-word transcription of a portion of someone else’s work, without proper attribution and without quotation marks.

Self Plagiarism
Occurs when a student submits his or her own previous work from another course assignment, or mixes parts of previous works, without permission from all professors involved.

Accidental Plagiarism
Occurs when a person neglects to cite their sources, or misquotes their sources, or unintentionally paraphrases a source by using similar words, groups of words, and/or sentence structure without attribution.

The Plague of Plagiarism by Professor Jim LaBate, Writing Specialist in the Writing and Research Center

The following was submitted by Associate Professor & Librarian Valerie Lang Waldin with permission of copyright owner, Professor & Writing Specialist Jim LaBate. 

 

In 1976, after 12 years of research and writing, Alex Haley published Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The book claimed to trace the true story of Haley’s family back to its African origin, sold well over a million copies, and became an extremely popular television mini-series. Unfortunately, another writer claimed that Haley had stolen entire passages and sued him for plagiarism. When confronted with the evidence, Haley recognized his errors and settled out of court for $650,000 (“Slavery Book”). The lesson for writers everywhere is that plagiarism should never be taken lightly.          

Writers are guilty of plagiarism any time they take another’s words or ideas and present them as their own (“Plagiarism” 858). Many college students plagiarize because they are not aware that they need to give credit to their sources, because they are not as meticulous as they should be in their research, or because they are unwilling to do the necessary work and hope they will not get caught. 

In any event, students at Hudson Valley Community College should know that plagiarism is listed as “prohibited conduct” in both the Hudson Valley Community College Student Handbook (143) and the college Catalog (329). They should know, too, that if they are found guilty of plagiarism, they could face certain consequences such as receiving a failing grade in the paper itself, a failing grade for the course, and possibly suspension or dismissal from the college.     

  

To avoid plagiarism, students should use their sources in one of three ways: with quotation marks, with a paraphrase, or with a summary.

  1. Quotation Marks. Most students know they can use a quote from a source, but many go too far and quote too much. As a general rule, quotations should be used sparingly. According to Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers, authors of The Bedford Handbook, quotations should be used “When language is especially vivid or expressive, when exact wording is needed for technical accuracy, [and] when it is important to let the debaters of an issue explain their positions in their own words” (570). ​
  2. Paraphrase. When writers paraphrase, they take their source’s information and put it in their own words, using approximately the same length. So, if they paraphrase three sentences from a source, the paraphrase should also be three sentences. The mistake many college writers make is they simply change one or two key words. That is not a paraphrase; that is plagiarism. To paraphrase properly, one should try to do so from memory without looking at the original source, and, then, the writer should check that his or her words and phrases do not resemble the source too closely (Hacker and Sommers 567-68).
  3. Summary. A summary highlights the key points or arguments in a much shorter format. A two-hour movie, for example, might be summarized in one paragraph, or a 300-page novel might be summarized in 500 words. Summaries are especially useful when writers have to give the reader some background information before moving on to an in-depth analysis (Hacker and Sommers 534).

Unfortunately, some students feel that if they do not quote directly from a source, they do not have to cite those sources. That is not true. Whenever writers paraphrase or summarize, they need to include the author’s name and the page number in the text of the paper, and they need to include complete details about the author, title, and publication information at the end of the paper. (Certain exceptions exist, and the specific guidelines will depend on the instructor’s expectations regarding editorial style.)

Yet, if all sources have to be cited, some students worry that the research paper will become merely a collection of quotes, paraphrases, and summaries? That is not necessarily so. Writers do not have to cite “common knowledge – information that readers could find in any number of general sources” (Hacker and Sommers 565-66). In addition, personal ideas and opinions do not have to be cited. Thus, a research paper should be a combination of the writer’s thoughts, common knowledge, and cited information from other sources. If a writer is unsure whether certain information should be considered “common knowledge” or whether it should be cited, the information should be cited.         

 

The full list of sources cited in this article is available below and also in The Writing and Research Center, located on the upper level of the Marvin Library. You can go there for help at any stage of the writing process.​

Dwight Marvin Library Plagiarism Tutorial

Plagiarism Checker

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

Taking good notes and keeping track of your sources will help you avoid plagiarism. A few ways to avoid plagiarism are:

Check MarkSummarizing - Briefly state the information in different words.

Check MarkParaphrasing - Translate all content into different words.

Check MarkQuoting directly - Use only when the author's wording makes a specific point.

5 Famous People Who Plagiarized

There are numerous examples of scholars and other professionals who have been caught plagiarizing. People make mistakes. Some of the people below were able to go on and have great careers without the shadow of plagiarism covering their success, however other's careers were permanently damaged. The bottom line is plagiarism is a mistake and will have consequences.

HTML Code Plagiarism

How to Avoid Plagiarism in Your Term Papers

  • Start early and work consistently throughout the term. “Term” papers, after all, are meant to be completed over the course of the semester and not in the one or two weeks before the paper’s deadline.

  • Keep thorough records of all your sources. When possible, make a copy of the original source, or, if you’re searching through a computer database, print a copy of the document even if you’re not sure you’ll use it in your paper.

  • Take good notes and clearly differentiate among direct quotes, paraphrases and summaries, and common knowledge and personal opinion. Otherwise, you may leave out quotation marks when they’re called for, or you may neglect to cite a paraphrase or a summary. Some students use different colored highlighters to make the distinctions even more obvious.

  • Prepare your parenthetical references and your list of sources as you write your paper. On your first term paper, you may find that documenting the in-text citations and compiling the final list of sources are the most difficult aspects of the whole paper. You can avoid this frustration and stress if you learn to document correctly as you write the paper, and you’re less likely to plagiarize if you’re conscientious about documentation throughout the entire research process.

  • Proofread everything thoroughly. Be meticulous about proofreading the text of your paper. If you misspell a few words or have some grammatical errors, you will probably lose only a few points. However, if you neglect to include necessary quotation marks, or if you fail to cite your sources properly, you could be found guilty of plagiarism and fail the assignment completely.

  • Consult your Handbook. Everything you’ll need to know about writing a research paper and avoiding plagiarism is included in the Handbook you’ll use for your Composition courses.

  • Get help. You can always ask your teachers for help or go to the Learning Assistance Center on the lower level of the Library or to the Writing Classroom in the Campus Center.

Source: Hudson Valley Community College’s Plagiarism Policy.

Information Ethics from Introduction to Information Literacy

Screenshot of Video on Information Ethics