Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Avoid It
You hear a lot about plagiarism. You know it’s something you should avoid. But what is plagiarism?
Basically, plagiarism is using other people’s ideas or research without giving them credit. It’s a form of theft – stealing from the author. It’s also a form of cheating – using someone else’s work as if it was your own. Examples of plagiarism include:
- Copying or paraphrasing from a source without crediting the author
- Using another person’s words or ideas as if they were your own
- Quoting from another person without indicating that it is a quotation
- Summarizing information from another source without indicating where it came from
- “Cutting and pasting” from an online source or the Internet without citing the source
The best way to avoid plagiarism is to credit (or cite) your sources. This means you say where the information in your paper came from. You need to do this both in the text of the paper (adjacent to the information you are using) and in the bibliography or reference list at the end of the paper.
What Kind of Information Needs to be Cited?
You need to give credit to the authors of all the information you use in a paper except information that is generally known by anyone who might be reading the paper, or that is your own original thought or idea.
If you quote directly from the source, using the exact words of the author, you must put the material inside quotation marks, credit the author, and give the page number where the quote can be found.
If you paraphrase the information – either by summarizing from your sources or rewording the information it so it’s in your own words and not the words of the author – you still need to cite the original authors.
How Should the Information be Cited?
The exact form your citations will take depends on the style manual that is used in the discipline you are studying or the requirements of the class as set forth by the professor.
Most professors in the College of Education and the College of Business, as well as those in the behavioral sciences, require students to use the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association as a style guide for research papers, including citing sources. Professors in History, Political Science, and some other areas require students to use the Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate Turabian or the Chicago Manual of Style. Professors in English require the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Copies of all these style manuals are available at the Athens State Library.
Let’s Look at an Example
A student wants to use the following information in a paper to support the point that a college degree will positively impact lifetime income. This paragraph is taken directly from the article “Rich Man, Poor Man” by Mortimer Zuckerman, published in U.S. News & World Report, June 12, 2006, pages 71-72.
Well, the primary reason is that over the past 25 years, globalization and technology have increased the rewards for intellectual skills, vastly increasing the value of a college degree. Education and family background are replacing the old barriers of class based on race and gender. The income gap between college graduates and those without university degrees doubled between 1979 and 1997. In the 1930s and 1940s, only half of all American chief executives had college degrees. Now virtually all do, and three-quarters of them also hold advanced degrees, such as an M.B.A.
The student writes:
The value of a college degree has increased dramatically in the past century. The income gap between college graduates and those without university degrees doubled between 1979 and 1997. In the 1930s and 1940s, only half of all American chief executives had college degrees. Now virtually all do.
Is this plagiarism? Yes, it is. The student has copied the information word-for-word without indicating that it’s an exact quote or crediting the source. The correct way to do this, using APA format, is:
The value of a college degree has increased dramatically in the past century. “The income gap between college graduates and those without university degrees doubled between 1979 and 1997. In the 1930s and 1940s, only half of all American chief executives had college degrees. Now virtually all do” (Zuckerman, 2006, 71).
Now let’s say the student paraphrased the information, or took the idea and reworded it.
The value of a college degree has increased dramatically in the past century. The difference in income between people with college degrees and those without has doubled since 1980 and almost all American CEOs now have college degrees.
Is this plagiarism? Yes. Even though it’s not an exact quote from the original author, the information has been taken from Zuckerman’s article and he must be credited for his work. Here’s one way to do this, using MLA format:
The value of a college degree has increased dramatically in the past century. According to Mortimer Zuckerman, the difference in income between people with college degrees and those without has doubled since 1980, and almost all American CEOs now have college degrees (71).
Remember, whenever you use information from another person or source, you must indicate the source it came from. You must also include a full citation to the source, in the proper format, at the end of the paper in your list of references or works cited. For example, using the bibliography format from Turabian, the citation looks like this:
Zuckerman, Mortimer S. “Rich Man, Poor Man.” U.S. News & World Report, June 12, 2006.
- Determine whether you need to cite the source. You MUST cite the source unless the information is generally known or it is your original thought or idea.
- Decide how you will use the information in your paper – as a quote, as a paraphrased section, or as a summary with other information.
- If you are going to give an exact, word-for-word quote, put it in quotation marks and include the page number as well as the author’s name (and publication date, for some formats) adjacent to the quote.
- If you are paraphrasing, given the author’s name (and publication date, for some formats) adjacent to the paraphrased section.
- If you are summarizing from several sources in one sentence, give the names of all authors (and dates, if required) in or at the end of the sentence.
- In your list of References or Works Cited, give a full citation to every source that you cite in the paper.
Consequences of Plagiarism
Plagiarism is a form of cheating and academic dishonesty, as explained in the Student Handbook and the Athens State Catalog. Plagiarism can result in serious consequences, ranging from having to redo an assignment, to getting an F on an assignment, to being suspended from the university. For more information about plagiarism and its consequences, see the Academic Dishonesty section in the Student Handbook or the Athens State Catalog.
If you have any questions about how to avoid plagiarism, or how to correctly cite your sources, contact your professor, the Writing Center, or a reference librarian at the Athens State Library.