When you are writing your research papers, summaries, responses, or other term papers, you will read many writers, and you will be asked to report the writers you have read. Sometimes you will like the ideas in the source and you will want to use those ideas. Sometimes you will disagree with the ideas and will still quote what those writers think and then criticize them. In either case, you will report what you have read. The most significant question is how you can do that without plagiarizing.

What is plagiarism?

In university courses, in the above situations, if you use information you gathered from other sources without acknowledging the source of information, and make it show up to be you own, this is called plagiarism.

How can you avoid plagiarism?

You must acknowledge the source (give credit) if you use

– another person’s idea, opinion, or theory,

– any facts, statistics, graphs, any chunks of information that is not common skill,

– quotations of another person’s actual spoken or written words,

– paraphrase of another person’s spoken or written words.

** These guidelines are taken from the “Student Code of Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct of Indiana University”. (Here, for example, I did not plagiarize because I borrowed from a source, and indicated the source of information.)

For further information on plagiarism please refer to the following online sources.

Indiana University has a very good page on plagiarism, with special emphasis on what is considered plagiarism in universities and how to avoid it. The pages about what is plagiarism and what is not are especially useful. http://www.indiana.edu/

Capital Community College also has a good coverage of plagiarism and exercises on strategies to avoid plagiarizing. http://www.ccc.commnet.edu/mla/plagiarism.shtml

Writing without plagiarizing: Strategies

How can we make use of other authors’ ideas and still credit their work? There are three methods of doing this:

When you paraphrase some text, do not leave behind that you still have to cite the source of information in order not to plagiarize.

What is a paraphrase?

A paraphrase is your restatement of an author’s ideas or some information

  • It should include the citation, i.e. name of the author and the date of publication of the material

  • e.g. Davis(2001) discusses the influence of parents on their children’s decision making process.

    How can you make a successful paraphrase?

    • Read very cautiously the text you are going to write about
    • Make notes while you are reading: Write down major points of argument, etc.
    • Make sure that you have understood the writer’s ideas entirely
    • Express in your own words the ideas or information you have read: A good way to do that is to put the text away and write your own sentences:
    • Use synonyms
    • Reorder the information or ideas
    • Switch the sentence pattern
    • You may state the information in shorter and simpler sentences
    • Compare your version with the original version; make sure that logic of the ideas has not switched
    • Do not add or leave out significant information
    • This paragraph discusses Sagan’s fascination with science as a child. It is a narrative paragraph and told in the famous scientist’s own colorful words. When we paraphrase such a text, we should summarize his narrative without losing the main points of attraction science had for him.

      1. He was attracted to science even before he knew the meaning of the word “science”

      Two. The starlets, the universe attracted him with all their mystery

      Three. He desired to be involved in this wonder and mystery and detect fresh worlds

      Four. He is a fortunate man because he realized his fantasy of becoming a scientist

      Our paraphrase may look as goes after:

      This paragraph discusses the basic concepts Milgram develops in order to explain the urban social phenomena. He coins special terms and offers descriptions for these terms. When we paraphrase such a text we cannot switch the terms because they are rightfully the author’s, but we can acknowledge the source and paraphrase the rest.

      Interaction among people in the cities is restricted

      It is restricted because there are too many instances of interaction

      Our capacity to process such an interaction explosion is restricted too

      Therefore, we choose to limit such social interactions

      “The dimension of importance of the activity”

      “The place of the act in the social-anomic continuum”

      6. Anomic conditions rather than social conditions predominate the urban life

      Having written down the main points, now we can proceed to make our own paraphrase/summary of Milgram’s discussion.

      When we read this concluding paragraph from Ignatieff’s article in which he discusses the role of myth in atrocities in the Balkan conflict, we see that he used a very metaphorical language, and quoting him in his own metaphors and choice of words would be direct plagiarism.

      What we should do instead is figure out what he suggests here as a solution to the conflict:

      War crimes tribunals and human rights commissions can be useful

      The function of such figures will be: to showcase the truth by separating truth from untruth with the help of historical evidence, and to display the importance of finding the truth rather than believing in stories people have believed without ever questioning

      When we have sorted out his suggestions and made a note of his ideas in our own words, now we can refer to Ignatieff.

      When should you quote? If the original wording of the source is very well-known and widely-recognized, or when the original phrasing is distinctly put together and paraphrasing would alter the meaning or weaken the effect, then you should use direct quotation from the source.

      e.g. Bashevich Singer said, “I don’t believe in miracles in writing.”

      e.g. “All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike – and yet it is the most precious thing we have.” Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

      Never quote extensively, that is, do not quote more than one or two paragraphs. Your paper should not consist of a collection of quotes from the same source or from different sources. Such a paper lacks coherence in style or meaning. Clippings from various writers, all written in different styles cannot make up a consistent and coherent entire. Your paper looks like a scrap-book. It also emerges that you could not master what you have read and present it in a coherent entire.

      Your quotes should be integrated into the main line of discussion in your paper. You should use quotes cautiously. Quoting for effect or to strengthen the meaning.

      When you quote a writer you should acknowledge the source. Using one of the format style manuals (MLA, APA, Chicago) you indicate the name of the author and the date of the publication.

      e.g. 1978 Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevich Singer once said, “I believe in miracles in every area of life, except writing. Practice has shown me that there are no miracles in writing. The only thing that produces good writing is hard work.”

      e.g. “We are going to die, and that makes us the fortunate ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.” (Dawkins, 1999, p.1)

      You should cite the name of the source in the text and in the references section of your paper. Refer to documentation

      Do not switch the wording and expressions of the original source. Do not misquote.

      Place the text within quotation marks.

      Place all punctuation marks that belong to the text within the quotation marks

      e.g. As Brown (2002) once said, “It is X.” (p.43)

      e.g. As Brown (2002) stated, “It is X.” (p.43)

      e.g. She argued that “It is X.” (Brown, 2002, p.43)

      Refer to style manuals for details

      When you are writing a research paper, a term paper or reviewing for an exam, you may be asked to summarize the main ideas in a text criticize the treatment taken by the author discuss the theme, etc. Your audience will make a superb difference in the way you treatment a text and summarize it. The notes you make for your own use will differ from the notes you make to discuss the matter with a friend, or from the summary you write for your professor. How much they know about the subject, how much detail you are going to include will all depend on the task and your target audience.

      How to make a summary

      A good strategy in summarizing a text you have read is:

      Read the text several times but do not make any notes. During your very first reading you may take extensive notes, but later you may find out that you do not need them. Therefore, read without making notes but interacting with the author. That is, familiarize yourself with the text, the author, the main ideas and arguments, etc.

      List the key ideas and supporting arguments

      Rank them in order of importance

      Summarize the text

      Acknowledge the source in the summary text and also list in the reference section

      See also documentation section

      Writing the research paper

      Written by Zeliha Gulcat, May 2004

      Related video: The Creation – by James Weldon Johnson

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