Monday, January 31, 2011

Unintentional Plagiarism

It's common knowledge that if you crib part or all of your paper from someone else, whether a fellow student, a web site or a published article or book, it's plagiarism. It's a serious violation of academic integrity and carries major penalties. Fortunately, it's very easy to avoid those penalties: don't cheat and you'll be fine!

However it's also possible to commit plagiarism unintentionally, and that can get you in trouble too. Unintentional plagiarism means that you didn't mean to cheat, but you still committed a violation of academic integrity by failing to acknowledge the sources of your ideas, or by being too dependent on someone else's ideas.
  • Forgetting to cite, citing incompletely, or citing the wrong source.
  • Paraphrasing without a citation. It's often said that if you put the other person's ideas into your own words, you don't need to cite. That's not true!!! You must cite, even if you didn't quote them word for word.
  • Relying too much on your source material, especially paraphrasing too much (even with citations.) Being overly dependent on another person's ideas means that your paper isn't original enough to satisfy the requirements of an academic assignment. This usually happens for one of two reasons, or a little of each: either you didn't have enough different sources, or you didn't include enough of your own analysis and interpretation.

If you are struggling with research and writing, there are a number of places to turn:
  • Ask a Librarian - a librarian can help you if you are having trouble finding resources and research materials on your topic. Librarians can also help you with questions about when and how to cite your sources!
  • Disability Services - if you know you have a learning disability or suspect you might.
  • English Language Learners (ESL) - if you have difficulty with English, go here.
  • SmarThinking - online tutoring, which includes help revising a paper.
  • Writing Resource Center - sample papers, explanations, exercises, and in-person help for every stage of the writing process.
  • your mentor/instructor - if you don't understand the assignment, need help choosing a topic, or want to know if you're on the right track.
Questions? Ask a Librarian

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