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?
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:
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
- Will the source provide relevant background information, essential data, facts, statistics and other information that is not in dispute?
- Will the source lend an authoritative opinion, interpretation, or analysis with which the researcher agrees or will rely upon?
- 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.
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.
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.
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