It is expected that your writing is your writing. Plagiarism refers to the action of taking the words or ideas of another person and using those words or ideas like they are your own. This is viewed differently in different cultures. In some cultures, copying what another person wrote is a way to honor the original writer. In American educational settings, plagiarism is not viewed this way. Plagiarism in the United States is viewed as stealing another person's work. There are very serious consequences for stealing another person's words or ideas and using them in your writing. You should never plagiarize any part of any assignment in any of your classes.
There are many ways to plagiarize. You should be familiar with them so that you don't do it accidentally. Some examples of plagiarism include copying text word-for-word (or with a few changes) from something without citing the author, copying too much from one source, and improperly crediting the source. Compare the quote to the examples of plagiarism in the following box.
Example: Types of Plagiarism
- "Children master the grammar of their native language by collecting hundreds of examples of correctly formed sentences. This process takes time, but it is worth it because the result is that they have a native ear" (Clark, 2017, para. 8).
Plagiarised Version: Copy and paste without source information
- As many people know, children master the grammar of their native language by collecting hundreds of examples of correctly formed sentences. This process takes time, but it is worth it because the result is that they have a native ear.
Plagiarised Version: Paraphrase the idea without source information
- A native ear is the gradual result of children hearing many examples of their native language used correctly.
Plagiarised Version: Rewording the quote
- Children learn the grammar of their first language by hearing lots of examples of correctly formed sentences. This takes time, but it is worth it because the result is a native ear.
* You should never copy a quote and change just a few words (with or without the source information). Even if you include the source information and you have only changed a few words, this is not correctly paraphrasing and is still considered plagiarism.
When you include research in your essays, you need to properly quote, summarize, or paraphrase as well as include the proper citation. Each of these skills will be explained in this book.
Exercise 1: Plagiarism Discussion
In a small group or with a partner, discuss the questions below:
- Why do you think the academic culture in the United States is so concerned about plagiarism?
- Think about your past educational experiences.* Is plagiarism something that your teachers were concerned about? How does that compare to the information in this chapter?
- The paragraph above mentions that there are different ways to include research: a quote, a summary, or a paraphrase. What do you know about these different writing techniques? Which one do you think would be the most useful? Which one would be the most difficult?
*As with many aspects of cultures, a difference does not mean one way of doing things is better. Culture simply means the way we do things here. We often have to adjust our actions or words to fit a context. The concern or lack of discussion of plagiarism in different cultures is just an interesting difference to be aware of and to adjust for. Even students growing up in the United States have to be specifically taught how to avoid plagiarism.