Monday, November 2, 2009

Academic Writing: Plagiarism--The 400-kilogram Gorilla in the Room

Before you write word one of a summary or paraphrase, get to know the meaning of the word “Plagiarism” as found in Wikipedia:

Plagiarism, as defined in the 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, is the “use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”

Within academia, plagiarism by students, professors, or researchers is considered academic dishonesty or academic fraud and offenders are subject to academic censure, up to and including expulsion. In journalism, plagiarism is considered a breach of journalistic ethics, and reporters caught plagiarizing typically face disciplinary measures ranging from suspension to termination. Some individuals caught plagiarizing in academic or journalistic contexts claim that they plagiarized unintentionally, by failing to includes or give the appropriate citation. While plagiarism in scholarship and journalism has a centuries-old history, the development of the Internet, where articles appear as electronic text, has made the physical act of copying the work of others much easier.

Types of Plagiarism

Intentional Plagiarism:

--Buying a paper from a “term paper mill” (a company that is in the business of writing papers for students so that they can cheat).

--Lifting an entire paper, even if it’s “free,” off the internet and submitting it as one’s own work.

--Lifting any text from the internet, highlighting it, and moving it to one’s paper without proper attribution to the original source.

--Paying another student to write a paper and then submitting as one’s own work

--Intentionally lifting significant passages from other academic papers on the same topic, cobbling together a paper that is essentially the work of various sources but not the person submitting the paper. Not offering source information from these various sources.

--“Borrowing” a paper from another student and submitting it as one’s own.

--Self-plagiarism (or “recycling” one’s own paper for another class. We’ll discuss this later in more detail because there is some controversy about this practice).

--Omitting quotation marks from exactly- or closely-worded text with the intention of deceiving readers.
Unintentional Plagiarism:

--Improperly summarizing or paraphrasing passages.

--Forgetting to use quotation marks for direct quotes of some passages.

--Incorporating internal citations improperly, thus not offering credit for as source, where credit is due.

--Lifting any text from the internet, highlighting it, moving it to one’s paper, and forgetting to offer proper attribution to the original source.
Obviously, there is a huge ethical gap between intentional and unintentional plagiarism, which we are trying to help you avoid by working on summarizing and paraphrasing techniques. (As for intentional plagiarism: we can’t teach you to be an ethical person if you choose to cheat).

We want you to avoid unintentional plagiarism because, as we say in America, “Ignorance of the law or rules is not a good defense.”

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