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Understanding Plagiarism

This article sheds light on the importance of recognizing how to evaluate and validate sources.

Simply put, plagiarism is ‘stealing’, ‘lying’, and claiming that the work is yours. Whether done intentionally or unintentionally, plagiarism is unacceptable in academic situations. With the Internet being a medium to carry information widely and diversely, it can be difficult to attribute credit to sources of information. Your source can be a website, a podcast, a presentation, or a video clip. However, if it contains original representations of ideas, thoughts, or outcomes of another individual’s efforts, then it must be acknowledged. 

Every website is a document that was authored by someone and every visual or diagram is the result of the creative efforts of another individual. If you copy and paste from any electronic document into your academic work and do not clearly credit those portions in your work, your work is plagiarized. During the course of your research, if you collect information across websites without specifying what you have accessed and when did, you may end up stating others’ work as yours. 


Plagiarism is not always obvious.   

While it is obvious that copying someone else's words as they are and presenting them as your own is plagiarism, subtle forms of plagiarism include rephrasing, rewording, and duplicating the sequence of thoughts and ideas in a way making it looks as if you wrote it.  Knowing the kinds of plagiarism that are likely to show up in academic writing will help you keep your research and writing honest and responsible. 


What are some of the sources that are easily ignored? 

Easily ignored sources can be online blogs, oral presentations, visuals shared in slides, discussions over podcasts, video tutorials, etc.  Therefore, make sure that as you are doing your research online, you are taking notes of all the sources from where you have drawn the information and cite them without missing any. 

Using what you have heard or seen online without giving credit is also considered plagiarism. 

What about your classroom discussions and instructor's lectures? There can be ideas that come as a result of a class discussion or peer group exercises. You can treat these as results of collaborative thinking and not just the outcome of one person's thoughts and ideas. 


How would you know which work of others must be acknowledged and what is common knowledge? 

As a student, you can become confused about how your work becomes your “own”. The answer to this challenge is “practice”. It is important for you to understand the definition of plagiarism by practice, feedback, and discussion. As you practice your researching techniques you will come to estimate the need to acknowledge another person’s work.

When you read someone’s article or book, it’s natural to get inspired and it’s common that in your writing you may include a phrase or try to rephrase what you have heard or read. On completing your work, share your work with others and get their feedback on your work and especially your reference list, whereupon you will learn to recognize how to evaluate and validate your sources. 

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Call to Action

It is important to learn how to evaluate, validate, and CITE sources. Plagiarism is a serious thing and it is not acceptable. Read about how a minister resigned because she plagiarized.

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