Chapter 5: Using Information Ethically

5.4 Plagiarism

Plagiarism is defined as using someone else’s words, ideas or other creative works without giving credit to that person. Sometimes you may get distracted or overwhelmed and forget to cite your sources. This is still plagiarism. To avoid plagiarizing, make sure you keep track of and properly cite all of your sources.

Tips for avoiding plagiarism

  • Don’t procrastinate. Good research takes time. Procrastinating makes it likely you’ll run out of time to complete your assignment before you need to turn it in. Plan your research well in advance, and make sure you have enough time to get everything done.
  • Take careful notes about where the ideas you’re using come from. One good practice is to clearly label which ideas are your own and which come from others. For example, in your draft, you could write (ME) after your own ideas, and note citation information (author, date, and especially page numbers) after the information from your sources. You’ll need this information for your bibliography anyway, so you’ll benefit from having it at the beginning.
  • Ask for help when you need it! Your professor or a librarian can help you better understand your assignment or what resources to use. The Academic Success Center or Writing & Media Center can help you improve your study habits, learn better time management skills, and get tutoring or writing support. If you’ve got a quick question about how to find or cite a source, use the library’s Live Chat service or stop by the main desk at the library and ask.

Did you know?

Plagiarism detection software is something you may encounter during your time in college. These tools check your words for text that is overly similar to other published or previously submitted papers. To avoid having your papers flagged by plagiarism detection software, take extra care to put things in your own words and correctly cite your sources. Be aware: these tools aren’t perfect and they can flag text that is not plagiarized but is coincidentally similar to other papers. This is why it’s especially important to keep good notes as you write to show where your information came from.

Reusing your work

Sometimes you might be tempted to reuse old papers or projects you’ve completed for another class, especially if that work is applicable for your current assignment. However, this type of recycled work could be flagged as plagiarism by plagiarism detection software, and will be unacceptable in many courses. Different disciplines have differing attitudes toward this kind of recycling, ranging from tolerance in very specific situations to absolutely forbidding it in all cases.

Before you resubmit work or assignments you have completed for a different course or purpose, you should always discuss with your instructor whether it is permitted to recycle your own work like this, whether in part or in its entirety.


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