What is Plagiarism? Who Cares?

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What is Plagiarism? Who Cares?

  • 05/03/17

Key Terms

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What is Plagiarism?

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  • “Copying the language, structure, ideas and/or thoughts of another and adopting the same as one’s own original work.”
      • -From the Student Handbook online
        • http://www.ecu.edu/studenthandbook/policies.htm

What is a “source”?

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  • Any person or text (online, print, broadcast, etc.) from which you get information that you use in your writing.
    • A friend/coworker you interview
    • A website you find through Google
    • A comment made by someone else in a chatroom
    • A newspaper or magazine article (online or in print)
    • An article from a scholarly journal (online or in print)
    • A television show
    • Etc.

What does “citation” mean?

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  • Citation, in this context, simply means clearly giving credit where credit is due.
  • Proper citation involves clearly indicating
    • the author, title, and publication information for the print, online, broadcast, and interview-based texts that you use (Include a Bibliography, Works Cited, or References section)
    • which words and ideas come from which sources (Include in-text citations or footnote/endnote notations)
    • when you are moving from your own words and ideas to the words and/or ideas of another (Include source writer’s name and signal phrase)

What is “Common Knowledge”?

  • A well-known fact.
  • Information that is likely to appear in numerous sources and to be familiar to large numbers of people.
  • This is the only time you do not need to cite information, provided that you do not copy that information word-for-word from a source.
  • If you are not sure if the information you want to use meets these definitions, cite it.
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Examples of Statements that are Common Knowledge

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
  • East Carolina University is located in Greenville, NC and is part of the UNC system.
  • Smoking can cause respiratory diseases such as emphysema and cancer.
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Examples of Statements that are NOT Common Knowledge

  • The family of Martin Luther King, Jr. retained the same attorney as his accused assassin, James Earl Ray, because they do not believe that Ray had anything to do with King’s death.
  • ECU enrolled 16,958 full-time undergraduate students in fall 2007 and 17,815 in fall 2008.
  • Smoking accounts for 85% of all emphysema deaths in the United States.
  • In rare cases, nonsmokers who lack a protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin can develop emphysema.
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Why is citing sources such a big deal?

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  • Source Writer’s Perspective: The perspective of someone whose words and/or ideas are being used by someone else
  • Source User’s Perspective: The perspective of someone who uses the words and/or ideas from a source

Source Writer’s Perspective

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  • It is important that others cite my words and ideas so that
  • My work can have a broader impact and can lead to further research and the advancement of knowledge
  • Other people will know where to go to get more information
  • I will get the credit (intellectually and, sometimes, financially) and recognition I deserve

Source User’s Perspective

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  • To give credit where it is due
  • To show that research has been done and to build credibility
  • To help readers identify what else they might wish to read (“research trail”)
  • To demonstrate the relevance and importance of the topic being addressed.

Why do people plagiarize?

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  • They don’t know why it is important to cite their sources
  • They lack confidence in their own ideas and writing abilities
  • They cannot figure out how to respond to the writing assignment/task
  • They have never used and are intimidated by handbooks that explain citation styles (MLA*, APA**, CBE***, etc.)
  • *=Modern Language Association
    • **= American Psychological Association
    • ***= Council of Biology Editors
  • They have procrastinated too long

Motivations for Plagiarism

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  • Conscious Plagiarism
  • Unintentional Plagiarism

Type 1: Conscious Plagiarism

  • The deliberate misrepresentation of someone else’s material as one’s own. This form of plagiarism is subject to the most severe academic punishment. Don’t do it.
  • Examples
  • Submitting an essay purchased from a term paper service
  • Intentionally copying another student’s work
  • Having someone else write your paper for you
  • Claiming copied material in your paper as your own

Type 2: Unintentional Plagiarism

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  • Failing, accidentally, to provide sufficient information about a source from which you have used language and/or ideas
  • Failing, accidentally, to clearly differentiate between your words and ideas and the words and ideas that you get from other sources
  • Making errors in the placement and use of quotation marks

Types of Plagiarism

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TYPE 1: Wholesale Plagiarism

  • Copying an entire source or a large section of a source and passing it off as one’s own work.

TYPE 2: Patchwork Plagiarism

  • Copying portions of multiple sources, connecting them together, and submitting the resulting document as one’s own work.

Idea-based Plagiarism

  • Presenting someone else’s unique interpretation, theory, or analysis as one’s own.
  • This constitutes plagiarism even if the wording has been changed.

Sprinkle Plagiarism

  • Occasional failure to cite properly through missing information, errors in punctuation, etc.
  • Often unintentional.


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  • What is a paraphrase?
  • In a paraphrase, your goal is to rewrite a statement into different words and with a different sentence structure without losing the original meaning of the text and while maintaining the same general length as the original.

Paraphrasing Properly

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  • Using phrases directly from the source without putting them in quotation marks constitutes plagiarism.
  • Following the same sentence structure while changing only a few words also constitutes plagiarism.
  • Original From Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976): 46-47.
  • Poor Paraphrase
  • “Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes” (Lester 46).
  • Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes (Lester 46).

Paraphrasing Properly

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  • Original From Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976): 46-47.
  • Good Paraphrase
  • “Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes” (Lester 46).
  • In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46).

Signal Phrases

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  • A Signal Phrase is a word or group of words that let your reader know when words and ideas in your writing come from another source.
  • Example (signal phrases indicated in red):
    • In her “Preface” to Country Life Readers: Book One, Cora Wilson Stewart argues that textbooks in the early part of the century had been “prepared strictly for immigrants and city dwellers,” while native-born mountain dwellers had no texts to reflect their own experiences. In response, she explains, “The people attending these schools demand textbooks which deal with the problems of rural life and which reflect rural life” (Country 3).

Some Signal Phrases

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  • Acknowledges
  • Comments
  • Reasons
  • Adds
  • Compares
  • Refutes
  • Admits
  • Confirms
  • Illustrates
  • Agrees
  • Reports
  • Argues
  • Notes
  • Suggests
  • Observes
  • Thinks
  • Claims
  • Emphasizes
  • Points out
  • Writes

When do I need to worry about plagiarism?

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  • You should avoid plagiarizing in all of your assignments, in all of your classes.
  • Plagiarism is not just something your English teacher cares about—it is something that all instructors in all disciplines care about.

Tips for Avoiding Conscious Plagiarism

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  • Do not procrastinate—start early!
  • If the assignment allows for some freedom, find a subject that actually interests you
  • Use prewriting strategies (Brainstorming, free-writing, clustering) to generate YOUR ideas on the subject BEFORE you start reading about what others say.
  • Realize how easy it is for a teacher to discover a plagiarized paper
  • Realize the severity of the consequences

Tips for Avoiding Unintentional Plagiarism

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  • Do not procrastinate—start early!
  • Use prewriting strategies
  • Take careful notes & follow a structured note-taking procedure.
  • Be very careful copying and pasting from online/electronic sources!
  • Indicate clearly in your notes where different ideas come from (try color-coding things you copy or paraphrase from different sources or use some form of margin notations, such as “M” for “my thoughts” and “S1” for “source #1,” etc.).
  • Indicate clearly which ideas are your ideas and which ideas come from another source
  • Save draft versions of your writing as you proceed so that if you accidentally delete a citation while revising, you can go back and get it.
  • Befriend a citation handbook
  • Don’t forget the quotation marks & the parenthetical references!

University Resources

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  • First-Year Writing Studio
    • ENGL 1100 & 1200
    • Bate 2005
    • 328-6399
  • University Writing Center
    • All other courses
    • Joyner Library, 1st Floor
    • 328-2820

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