What Is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is taking someone else’s ideas or words and presenting them as your own. Even when you put those ideas in your own words, they still were created by someone else, and that person must be given credit for them. It is not ethical to take someone else’s ideas or words and use them as though they are your own even if that other person gives you permission to put your name on his or her work.

Of course, many of the ideas we have probably come from somewhere else, and it would be impossible to try to separate out our own original ideas. Plagiarism comes in where we knowingly take and use or allow others to use our creations and put their name on it.

Copyright is the legal ownership right a person or organization has to various types of creative works such as art, music, and literature. A person or organization does not have to create the work of art to own the copyright. When a copyrighted item is used without permission or credit, it is considered a form of stealing. Often, there are fees for using copyrighted material.

How Do I Avoid Plagiarism?

You avoid plagiarism by giving credit to the source by naming (citing) the source and including a bibliography – a list of references – at the end. This is called documenting sources. There are many different sets of rules for citing sources depending upon the publication. These are called a documentation system or a style system. A style system includes rules for page format, in-text citations (cites in the body of the paper), and the bibliography (list of references at the end.

Newspapers use AP (Associated Press) style. Academic publications such as MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association) are examples of citation styles commonly used in schools.

When Do I Have to Cite a Source?

  • Whenever you put information from a source into a sentence whether you use exact words in a quote (must use quotation marks) or put the information into your own words (paraphrase), you have to cite the source in the sentence.
  • It is not all right to have several sentences with information from a source and then cite the source. A reader has no way of knowing how many, if any at all, of the previous sentences have information from the source.
  • In order to avoid any issue of plagiarism, you should cite the source even when it is information you already know.
  • Information of common knowledge does not have to be cited. Common knowledge is commonly known and accepted ideas or facts.

Unintentional plagiarism

When a person doesn’t realize that documentation is required or tries to properly document but does not, it is called unintentional plagiarism. Unfortunately, the results could be the same as for intentional plagiarism such as not getting any credit for a paper and/or failing the course and/or disciplinary proceedings which could affect your status in a school.

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