Plagiarism: How Do I Avoid It?

What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is theft of intellectual property. You are guilty of plagiarism if you copy someone else’s words or ideas and present them as your own. It is unethical and illegal.
· Using information from any source (print, electronic, video, interview, etc.) without giving credit
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· Using a graphic, photograph, chart, map, sound file etc. without giving credit
· Copying and pasting from the Internet
· Copying part or all of someone else's work and claiming it as your own

Avoiding Plagiarism:

Real research means finding facts, thinking about what you've learned, organizing the information, and presenting it in your own words.
Writers sometimes plagiarize ideas from outside sources without realizing it. There are two ways to protect yourself from such inadvertent plagiarism:
1. NOTE-TAKING: Most of the notes that you take will be in paraphrase form. This means that you will need to read a section of your source and then think about it. If you do not understand a source - don't use it! Next, write down the basic meaning of what you have read, using your own words. To do this, you must change both the vocabulary and the grammatical structure of the original sentences. The result must look completely different from the source, while meaning the same thing.
If you do not adequately paraphrase and neglect to use quotation marks, you will be plagiarizing.
If you copy words exactly as they are written in the source, put quotation marks around them in your notes immediately. Do not expect to remember that you need to paraphrase later.
2. DOCUMENTATION OF SOURCES: No matter what kind of notes you take - paraphrase, summary, or direct quotation - you will need to give credit to the source in the body of your work using proper citations and in a Works Cited list. If a reader cannot determine the source of any researched information in your paper by using a parenthetical reference that matches a complete and accurate citation in your Works Cited, then you have plagiarized.

Common Knowledge Exceptions:
Consider the typical complaint: “When I started this research, I didn't know anything about the topic. Does that mean I must document every sentence in the paper?” No, not at all. Personal notes and synthesis of outside sources are one’s own, along with the thesis, topic sentences, analysis, and generally the opening and concluding paragraphs. In addition, factual information of a general nature, called “common knowledge," reoccurs in source after source.
Examples: Confederation occurred in 1867; Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans in August 2005.
Remember this general rule: Information that occurs in five or more sources may be considered general knowledge.
Another general rule: When in doubt, cite!

Consequences of Plagiarism
At the high school level: The student receives a failed grade for the plagiarized work.
At the college/university level: "Because it is intellectual theft, plagiarism is considered by all post-secondary institutions as an academic crime with punishment anywhere from an F on that particular paper to dismissal from the course to expulsion from the college or university" (Writing).

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