This is brief paper I wrote several years ago and placed at personal.cmich.edu. That server now appears to be gone forever. By request, I am reposting the text of this essay here.
Avoiding Plagiarism: A Librarian's View by Michael Lorenzen
It is important to give credit to the works of others that you use in writing a paper. Failure to do so, whether on purpose or by accident, results in plagiarism. This is something to avoid when writing not only because it is unethical but also because it can get you into serious academic trouble. Plagiarism is the offense of taking the words, written or spoken, or the ideas of others and passing them off as one's own. You are plagiarizing if you copy exactly a statement by another and fail to identify your source. You are also guilty of plagiarism if you copy just a small piece of work that someone else wrote and take credit for it.
The easiest way to avoid plagiarism is to include everything that you use in writing your paper in the bibliography. In this way, you acknowledge that you are using the ideas and words of others and giving these people credit for their work.
However, citing the works that you use in a paper is not enough on its own all the time. If you quote the words of someone else, be it a paragraph or a few words, you must put quotation marks around what you quote. This lets the reader know you did not write the material in this part of the paper. If you use ideas that are not your own in a paper, but do not quote the idea directly, you still need to acknowledge in the text that the idea is not your own even if you list the work the idea came form in your bibliography. How this is done differs depending on the citing system you are using such as APA or MLA. If you paraphrase someone else's writing, you must give credit to the author.
Full-text resources in the library tempt some students to cut and paste parts of articles directly into their papers. This is OK to do as long as the copied text is put in quotations and cited properly. It is not all right to do this if no indication is made that the words are copied. Faculty are aware of full-text resources and they are apt to check suspicious text in these databases. If you are unsure how to credit something in your paper, ask a librarian or the faculty member who assigned the paper.
It is not OK to turn in a paper that someone else has written either even if they have given you permission to do so. This is called collusion and it is still plagiarism. You will get in trouble if you are caught and so may the student who let you use their paper if they are a student here. If you want to use part of a friends paper in your paper, go ahead. Just make sure you give proper credit to your friend in your bibliography and put quotation marks around quotes.
Another area that is plagiarism that many students are not aware of is using translated material and passing it off as their own work. If you know another language and use this to translate a work into English, this is great. Please give proper credit to the author of the work you translated. Do not turn the work in as your own. It is still plagiarism even if the language has been translated.
Also remember that material on the World Wide Web was created by someone. It is not all right to copy their work without giving credit. All the rules for avoiding plagiarism listed above still apply when using the World Wide Web. Search engines make it easy for instructors to find web sites that are used for plagiarized material.
One common student trick is to get information for book reviews from reader reviews from sites such as Amazon or Cheap Books. While this is easy to do, faculty also know to check these sites out. A simple phrase search on Google will usually reveal the source of the review.
The best way to avoid plagiarism is simply to write your own papers using your own words. Be sure to cite everything you used to write the paper in the bibliography. Put quotation marks around everything you cite. In this way, you will be safe from being accused of turning in a plagiarized paper.
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