Plagiarism is one of the most common threats students must deal with in college.
Although plagiarism sounds like it would be easy for students to avoid, it is actually one of the problems most commonly dealt with in the Writing Center. Plagiarism is when a student uses someone else’s work without giving the original author credit. Many students know that a citation is needed when they use a direct quote. Less commonly known is that a citation is also needed when paraphrasing information, or taking facts from one source and summarizing them in an assignment. Even if the information was not copied directly, it is still important to give credit for three reasons:
- The other author needs acknowledgment for their intellectual contributions.
- It enhances the credibility of a student’s argument if they can show they used strong sources.
- It shows the student understood the material well enough to put it in their own words.
Recently, students have come into the Writing Center with an unusual problem: self-plagiarism. Self-plagiarism is when a student tries to use the same paper in two different classes. The most common example seen has been when a freshman tries to reuse a paper they submitted in high school for one of their introductory English courses. Although the student might not consider it plagiarism, doing so qualifies as academic dishonesty because the student is not completing the individual assignment like they are supposed to. They are essentially copying their own work to try to get credit for multiple assignments. If the problem is not corrected, they might end up with a failing grade or a visit from the Dean’s office, neither of which would be pleasant.
Here’s some tips on how you can avoid plagiarism:
- Make a list of what information you know about the subject first. This is information that does not need to be cited and can be used as is.
- When doing research, make a list of what information comes from each source. Include any quotes that might be useful. This way, when it’s time to write the paper, you have a short document that can be used for reference.
- If you are unsure of whether information needs to be cited, you can ask yourself, “Did I know this before I read the source?” If not, it needs to be cited.
- Always ask for permission before using old work for a new assignment. Professors assign work so students get a chance to develop their skills, and you can’t do that if you don’t do the assignment.
Hopefully, this short post helps you understand what plagiarism is and how it can be avoided!
written by Heather D.