The Writing Corner
By Miriam Raub Vivian
Intellectual Theft: Understanding Plagiarism
Despite our department’s best efforts—educating students in class, using Turnitin.com—there are still students who turn in plagiarized work, inadvertently or otherwise. So here are a few thoughts on what constitutes plagiarism—a serious issue—with a strong recommendation that students be well informed about how to clearly avoid it:
This explanation may be helpful: You commit plagiarism if you use another’s words OR ideas OR phrasing without giving that author credit. If you use the author’s exact words, and fail to put these words inside of quotation marks, it is dishonest, and it is plagiarism. By the same token, if you follow an author’s wording very closely, even with a citation you are relying unduly and unfairly on the words of another, all the while leaving your reader to believe they are your own. Thus plagiarism is best avoided by putting the author’s ideas into your own words. Further, make sure you are not incorporating whole sentences and sections of one author and simply changing a word or two here or there. When you have taken proper care to use your own words to restate the idea of another, do not forget that you must still cite that author as the source of the idea. This can be done simply by following your sentence with a foot- or endnote number that refers your reader to your notes, where a proper citation can be found.
The best papers avoid quoting the author, following his or her approach to a topic too closely, or relying heavily on just one or two sources. On occasion an author’s quotation is helpful if you want to capture that person’s masterful style, but in general you will better digest another’s ideas if you think about them and translate them into your own words and style. This practice will also aid the flow of your paper.
If you do quote an author, any excerpts over three lines should be indented (ten spaces) and put in a single-spaced block. No quotation marks are used at either the beginning or the end of indented quotations.
CSUB has a clear statement on Academic Integrity. See p. 81 of the 2007-2009 CSUB catalog for a full statement of the policy. Students found to engage in academic dishonesty (cheating) will fail the course, and a letter citing the violation of academic honesty will be placed in the student’s permanent file. Here is a small excerpt of the most pertinent section of CSUB’s policy on Academic Integrity:
“Academic DISHONESTY (CHEATING) is a broad category of actions that use fraud and deception to improve a grade of obtain course credit. Academic dishonesty (cheating) is not limited to examination situations alone, but arises whenever students attempt to gain an unearned academic advantage. PLAGIARISM is a specific form of academic dishonesty (cheating), which consists of the misuse of published or unpublished works of another by claiming them as one’s own. Plagiarism may consist of handing in someone else’s work, copying or purchasing a composition, using ideas, paragraphs, sentences, phrases or words written by another, or using data and/or statistics compiled by another without giving appropriate citation. Another example of academic dishonesty (cheating) is the SUBMISSION OF THE SAME, OR ESSENTIALLY THE SAME, PAPER or other assignment for credit in two different courses without receiving prior approval from the instructors of the affected courses.”
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