Avoid Plagiarism: Take Good Notes

Avoid Plagiarism: Take Good Notes

Plagiarism occurs when one writer misappropriates the words or ideas of another writer. However, plagiarism is not always the deliberate or intentional misappropriation of ideas, thoughts, and language. It is effortless to commit “accidental” plagiarism, which, regardless of the writer’s intentions, carries serious academic consequences or legal penalties. Ignorance of copyright law, filthy research, weariness, carelessness, and haste are not acceptable excuses when a professor detects plagiarism in a student’s paper. The best way to avoid the consequences of “accidental” plagiarism is to learn good research technologies.

How do you commit “accidental” plagiarism?

  • By failing or leaving behind to include one source or numerous sources in your bibliography or references list.
  • By failing or leaving behind to enclose a direct quote taken from another writer within quotation marks.
  • By failing to paraphrase decently. (By copying the original quote too closely and failing to put quotation marks around the parts of the sentence that are identical to the original).
  • By failing or leaving behind to provide the reference for each summary or paraphrase of another writer.
  • By copying and pasting sections from electronic sources into your own document, then failing to decently quote, cite, and document the original source.
  • By confusing your own thoughts and words with those you have copied from other writers. (This is effortless to do if you do not keep good notes when conducting research.)

Falsification of information, fabrication of sources, and distortion of data is considered fraud, not plagiarism, but it is just as serious. Submitting someone else’s work as your own (for example, submitting a term paper written by someone else or provided by an online term-paper service) is also considered fraud and carries far more serious consequences than plagiarizing part of a paper.

How do you avoid “accidental” plagiarism?

  • Learn how to decently integrate quotes and references into your own writing.
  • Learn how to paraphrase and summarize decently, then recall to attribute each paraphrase or summary to its original source.
  • Take good notes when conducting research. Use symbols or different colors of highlighter to distinguish your words and ideas from those belonging to other writers.
  • Use electronic sources cautiously. It is best to print out or copy the entire document into a separate file instead of copying petite sections directly into the draft you are writing.
  • Keep a meticulous working bibliography of all the books, journals, electronic full-text documents, and web sites you use. Reminisce to note name of author, date of publication, page numbers, publisher, and library call number or URL.
  • Proofread your paper cautiously for research mistakes. Make sure all the sources cited, quoted, or discussed in your paper emerge in your bibliography or references. Make sure each bibliographic note is as finish as possible. Make sure everything that emerges in quotation marks is identical to the way it was printed in the source. Make sure you have not forgotten to enclose any direct language taken from a source in quotation marks, even if it is just a few words.
  • Ask for help from your professor, TA, or writing tutor if you are not sure how to quote something or cite something. Seek assistance before you submit the paper for a grade!
  • When in doubt, err on the side of caution and cite the source.
  • Attempt It!

    Test your skill of plagiarism and the decent citation of source materials by taking Tufts’ online plagiarism quiz.

    Go to Tufts University’s Plagiarism Prevention Quiz (PDF) to take the quiz, and then see how well you did by looking at the Answers (PDF).

    Taking Good Research Notes

    Taking good notes while conducting research is essential to the research process. Your notes act as your own summary and response to the sources of information you encounter. Good note-taking abilities make research a lot lighter and swifter, while poor notes all too lightly lead to “accidental” plagiarism.

    Common Mistakes when Taking Notes from Research:

  • Confusing direct quotations you have copied from an original source with your own written words and ideas. This is how presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin «accidentally» plagiarized sections of a book she was writing. She thought some passages written in her own handwriting were her own words, when in fact they were copied from another writer.
  • Passively writing down lots of quotations or summaries without writing down your own response to them.
  • Taking quotations out of context.
  • Leaving behind where you read something or where you found some significant data.
  • Leaving behind to write down all the bibliographic information before you stir to another web site or come back the book to the library.
  • Spending too much time doing background reading instead of actively seeking information and ideas more relevant to the point of your paper.
  • Taking Good Notes

    Good researchers are strategic readers, and their notes form a series of their own responses and questions to selected relevant passages. These responses and questions, jotted down quickly, later become part of the rough draft or provide direction in the research process. A good researcher uses different kinds of notes for different purposes.

    Three Questions to Consider when Taking Research Notes

    1. Will the source provide relevant background information, essential data, facts, statistics and other information that is not in dispute?
    2. Will the source lend an authoritative opinion, interpretation, or analysis with which the researcher agrees or will rely upon?
    3. Does the source provide a counter-point with which the researcher does not agree in entire or in part?

    As discussed in Step 3b, it is significant not to disregard relevant sources that run counter to your opinion or to the argument you will make in your research paper. If you disagree with the source, you should state why. Has the source been disputed or proven wrong by other researchers or scholars? Has the source overlooked another interpretation or another source of data? Taking disagreement into account and acknowledging the other side of an argument will make your final paper more interesting, sophisticated, and accurate.

    Mechanisms for Plagiarism Prevention

    In the research notes, a good researcher uses symbols, different colors of ink, Post-It Notes, and other elementary devices to distinguish his or her own ideas and words from those that belong to someone else. Because a research project can take weeks or months to finish, your notes can lightly become confusing or messy, making it all too effortless to confuse your own words with those originally written by someone else.

    Working Bibliography

    A working bibliography is a list of books and other sources that you intend to find and read or skim to see if they are worthwhile for your own research. As you locate each source and read it, you can use your working bibliography to make notes about the usefulness or importance of that source. Develop your working bibliography by scrutinizing the sources used by other researchers on your topic and by doing searches of the library’s catalogue and online databases.To form a working bibliography, write down the accomplish bibliographic information for that source and its library call number. If the source is not available in your library or has been checked out, write a note to yourself about its availability. Use your working bibliography to keep track of the sources you have found or could not find, whether you have read or skimmed the source, and whether you have rejected it as inappropriate for your research.

    Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is simply a list of sources you have read or skimmed during your research process with added notes in which you summarize the main point of the source and indicate its degree of relevance to your project. Recall to include all sources used in your research, including web sites, films, private interviews, and electronic versions of periodicals. You can lightly turn your working bibliography into an annotated one. Using an annotated bibliography is enormously helpful for keeping track of your sources for a elaborate research project such as a senior thesis, and essential for advanced research at the graduate level and beyond.

    © 2004 – 2008 Tufts University

    Related video: How to Write a First-Class Dissertation (Aston University) Part 1


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