Thursday, February 1, 2007

How to Avoid Plagiarizing

The academic community takes plagiarism very seriously. The reliability of scholarly communication depends on our ability to know where knowledge came from and how it was gotten. Even a little mistake like forgetting to cite a quotation breaks the line back to your sources. Our faculty have access to a service that analyzes papers for signs that they might contain plagiarized content, which discourages intentional plagiarism. It can be unnerving to realize that you can get in trouble for plagiarizing even if you didn't mean to. Here are some ways to make sure that doesn't happen.
  1. Take down all the information you'll need to make citations. Copy the bibliographic information of your source and number it with a Roman numeral. In your notes you can mark each entry with that Roman numeral and the page number.
  2. Copy down statistics exactly and double-check them. If you are going to be using diagrams, charts, graphs, or images, you must duplicate them accurately and cite them.
  3. Double-check quotations and mark them so you won't later mistake them for your own words. Don't over quote. Use quotations for their authority, for examples and illustrations, or if the author has said something in a unique, memorable, or distinctive way.
  4. If something occurs to you while you're reading, or you have your own interpretation or opinion of what your source said, write that down but mark it so you'll be able to distinguish between your thoughts and the ideas of your sources.
  5. Do you have to cite plain facts? If the fact is something that your source discovered or realized, then you should cite it. The general guideline is: if it's something you can find in half a dozen reputable sources, then it's common knowledge and you don't need to cite.
  6. Don't be tempted to work a passage so it says exactly what you want. It's intellectually dishonest to take something out of context and make it say something the author never meant. To make sure you don't do that, know the context of every statement you use, and stay true to it.
Be sure to check out the college's Academic Integrity web site at http://www.esc.edu/academicintegrity. Your may get a writer's cramp, but you can be confident that the content of your paper purported to be your own is 100% your own solid research.

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