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ENG 101: Composition I (Woodbery): Plagiarism

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What is plagiarism?

"Plagiarism is defined as presenting someone else's work or ideas as your own (Badke, 2007). Often this involves student's copying homework, wandering eyes during an exam and, in more serious cases, it can mean entire report plagiarizing (Berger, 2007). Plagiarism essentially constitutes misrepresentation and fraud (Badke, 2007). In all cases, plagiarism is cheating."

Simply put, "[p]lagiarism [is] the act of taking the writings of another person and passing them off as one's own. The fraudulence is closely related to forgery and piracy--practices generally in violation of copyright laws."

What, exactly, does plagiarism have to do with copyright?

"A copyright gives the owner of a created work the right to use, sell, or license the creation and prohibits others from doing so without appropriate approval from the copyright owner . . . Central to the concept of copyright are economic rights that are recognized by copyright laws around the world and generally apply to any commercial activity including physical reproduction of books, public performances, and electronic distribution (UNESCO, 2009)."

In other words, you can't simply copy someone else's words or ideas without giving them proper credit. To do so is to steal and cheat (and violate TU's Honor Code). Many cases of plagiarism can be avoided by including an in-text citation whenever you add something to your paper that isn't your own original thought.

But what about fair use?

Fair use allows some exceptions to copyright laws. For example, a teacher can photocopy small portions of a book for his or her class for educational purposes but couldn't copy the whole book or sell it for a profit. When you're writing a paper, however, fair use doesn't typically come into play. Just make sure that you're including your own thoughts and ideas in between your citations. You can't write a whole paper that solely consists of citations!

Quotes and Paraphrasing

All quotes (or photos, videos, etc.), even paraphrases, must be attributed to their original author/creator.
Paraphrasing is the act of rewriting someone else's thoughts using your own words. That means that, even if you're not directly quoting from a source, you still have to let your instructor know where you got the idea from if it isn't your own. In fact, the majority of your citations should be examples of paraphrasing and not direct quotes. Only use a direct quote when there's simply no better way to say it! For instance, make sure to use a direct quote when using an example out of a piece of literature (i.e., to illustrate how an author writes), but paraphrase when you're referencing someone else's analysis of that work.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

In-text citations and a properly formatted Works Cited page are your cure to the copyright blues. They add credibility to your work, add a research trail for others (e.g., your instructor) to follow, provide evidence for arguments, and give credit where credit is due. In order to avoid plagiarism, all sources should be identified with an in-text parenthetical citation and listed on the Works Cited page. This includes not only secondary sources from somewhere like GALILEO (e.g., literary analyses or research studies) but also the original work(s) that you're talking about in your paper. Don't forget to include that poem, novel, short story, etc. on your Works Cited page! And, remember, that instructors don't know your intent when they come across an example of plagiarism in your paper: did you purposefully plagiarize, or did you merely forget to include your citation after you quoted someone else's idea?

Common Knowledge, Opinions, and Ideas

There are, however, two areas that are not considered plagiarism and do not require a citation:

  1. Common Knowledge, which are things most people know without having to look them up (e.g., the capital of France is Paris).
  2. Opinions or ideas, for example, "I believe that everyone has the right to vote."

And, as always, when in doubt, cite!

Pollock, David. "Plagiarism: How to avoid it." YouTube, uploaded by Bainbridge State College, 5 Jan. 2010,