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Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Avoid It
What is "plagiarism"?
If you use someone else's words or ideas without crediting them, you are committing a type of theft called plagiarism. The Oxford American dictionary defines plagiarism as "(the use of) another person's ideas or writings or inventions as one's own." The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines plagiarism as:
- to use without crediting the source(e.g. ,using someone’s ideas without listing the source in your bibliography)
- to present as new an idea or product derived from an existing source(e.g., using someone else's idea or thought and call it your own by changing the words around a little)
- to commit literary theft(e.g., cutting and pasting someone's else's words into your paper and calling it your own)
You will find plagiarism defined as an Academic Offense in the UALR Student Handbook.
"Plagiarism: To adopt and reproduce as one’s own, to appropriate to one’s own use, and incorporate in one’s own work without acknowledgement the ideas or passages from the writings or works of others."
How can I avoid plagiarism?
Basic rule: List all of your information sources in your bibliography.
Here are some tips on avoiding plagiarism if you are:
- Using an Author's Exact Words
- Use quotation marks around all words copied from a source
- Provide a citation for the source of the exact words
- Paraphrasing an Author's Words
- Using your own words restate what the author said
- Provide a citation for this paraphrased idea
- Stating Common Knowledge
- Information that is commonly known by the public or the intended reader does not need to be cited
- This might include facts about people like birth or death dates, or items that are commonly found in encyclopedias. All other information such as quotations, statistics, and ideas should always be cited in your papers.
- Borrowing Information
- Cite the source when borrowing a figure, graph, map, data, or table from another author's work
- If you have organized your ideas in the same fashion in which an author organized his or her ideas, cite the source of the organizational scheme.
- Reusing Collaborative Papers
- If two students wrote a paper as a group or team project, one of the authors cannot submit the paper for another assignment as if it is his or her own paper
- Documenting the Spoken Word
- Information drawn from personal communications, speeches, broadcasts, conversations, interviews and other spoken words must be documented with a citation and/or parenthetical citation
It is common knowledge that ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. Check your paper against the wording within the sources to avoid unintended plagiarism. Give credit where credit is due.
Not sure how to cite a particular source? Check out "Guidelines for Using Materials: How To Give Credit Where Credit Is Due"
Remember that copyright is an area where there is still much ambiguity. Future legislation and court decisions will continue to shape copyright law. Information provided on this website should not be construed as legal advice.