On plagiarism

Plagiarism seems to pop up in the news every few months. Here’s a New York Times front page story from this week: “Montana Democrat’s Thesis Presented Others’ Work as His Own, along with a powerful graphic.

As research writing becomes more complex, involving multiple sources, plagiarism is a particular concern. Most students understand that it is an act of plagiarism to turn in someone else’s essay or to copy-and-paste essays from various online essay mills. But plagiarism is much more complicated than that. You can get a glimpse of this complexity by looking at his video, which identifies ten different types of plagiarism (don’t worry if you can’t keep them straight!):

There is a lot of great info on plagiarism on the library’s libguide here. In particular, be sure to look at the video on the libguide’s homepage titled “Plagiarism 2.0: Information Ethics in the Digital Age” (you’ll need to give your BCC library ID to view the video); note that there are also several tabs with info on Avoiding plagiarism, BCC’s plagiarism policy, and several other relevant topics.

Try not to think of plagiarism as a “crime” you don’t want to get “caught at.”If you focus instead on developing good research practices, plagiarism won’t be an issue.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Even if you have a hard time getting starting actually writing a research paper, get started early looking for sources.
  • Once you’ve found some sources, do your reading and note-taking bit by bit, so you won’t be overwhelmed at the last minute.
  • When you take notes, keep track of what information comes from what source.
  • As you “extract” information from your sources, be sure to identify when you’ve copied information word-for-word and when you’ve put things in your own words. Make sure you’re clearly on one side or the other.
  • As you write you rough draft be sure to indicate when you use information from your sources. In a first draft, you can just use an asterisk or a number that you’ve assigned to each source. Before you turn in a rough draft, add proper in-text citations.

The quick version for MLA in-text citations:

  • In-text citations are in parentheses just before the period at the end of the sentence that contains info from your source. (If all of the information in one paragraph is paraphrased or summarized from the same source, you can put one in-text citation at the end of that paragraph, but use an in-text citation beside each quotation.)

1. For books or other print-format material, in-text citations are normally in the form (Brown 165), i.e., author’s last name and page number.
2. For online sources with authors, the usual form at is (Brown), i.e., author’s last name.
3. For sources with no author given, the usual form is (“The Birth of Robotics”), i.e., the title of the article or webpage.
4, For indirect sources (“your” author Brown quotes an expert named Sullivan, which seems like an unusual circumstance, but actually happens quite often, especially when your sources are general interest magazines or newspapers), you must use Sullivan’s name in your sentence as a signal phrase to give him/her credit for the quotation and then the in-text citation is (qtd. in Brown).

These are complicated rules!! If you haven’t done research writing before, or not recently, don’t worry if it takes you some time to figure this out. Even the tutors in the Writing Center (or your instructor!) often pull out handbooks or look online to figure out how to do unusual types of sources or to refresh our memories on the rules.

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