What is Plagiarism?
Accidental plagiarism occurs when students fail to write complete and accurate citations. This can happen in the following ways:
- Leaving out quotation marks when quoting a source, even if you supply a citation at the end of your paper.
- Paraphrasing materials from a source without appropriate documentation in a list of works cited or references.
Copying text or images from a source without proper acknowledgment in a list of works cited or references.
If you plagiarize, you could fail your course, be suspended, or even be expelled. Avoid plagiarism by understanding the rules for quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing sources.
- another person's idea, opinion, or theory
- any facts, statistics, graphs, drawings -- any pieces of information -- that are not common knowledge
- quotations of another person's actual spoken or written words
- a paraphrase of another person's spoken or written words
Put in quotations everything that comes directly from a source, especially when taking notes, and be sure to write down the words exactly as they’re written.
- Paraphrase, but be sure you are not just rearranging or replacing a few words.
- Check your paraphrase against the original text to be sure you have not accidentally used the same phrases or words, and that the information is accurate.
- Cite every piece of information that is not a) the result of your own research, or b) common knowledge.
- This includes opinions, arguments, and speculations as well as facts, details, figures, and statistics.
- According to Smith...
- Jones says...
- In his 1987 study, Robinson proved...
Quotations, Paraphrasing, and Common Knowledge
According to Peter S. Pritchard in USA Today, "Public schools need reform but they're irreplaceable in teaching all the nation's young" (14).
Paraphrasing is using someone's ideas, but putting them in your own words. Although you use your own words to paraphrase, you must still acknowledge the source of the information. A paraphrase should contain all of the author's information and none of your own commentary. Even if you have avoided using the author's vocabulary, sentence structure, or style, an unattributed paraphrase is plagiarism because it presents another person’s ideas as your own.
If Pritchard says “Public schools need reform but they're irreplaceable in teaching all the nation's young” you are plagiarizing if you write: Public schools need to be reformed, but we can’t replace public schools’ roles of teaching youth in the United States.
Pritchard admits that public schools are the best approach to educating children in America, despite his demands to improve the system (14).
Example of common knowledge:
Because the following is a commonly known fact, it doesn’t need to be cited: John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States in 1960.
In the following, you do need to cite your source because the idea that "Bush's relationship with Congress has hindered family leave legislation" is an interpretation of facts: According the American Family Leave Coalition's new book, Family Issues and Congress President Bush's relationship with Congress has hindered family leave legislation (6).