What Is Plagiarism?

Did you know that you can plagiarize yourself?

Geoff Pope, read by Mignon Fogarty,
December 2, 2010
Episode #252

Page 2 of 3

The Good News

The good news is that most instances of plagiarism are unintentional, resulting from not taking good notes or improperly using notes. Later in the episode, we’ll look at some tips for taking and organizing your notes; but let’s look now at four scenarios where a person plagiarized:

  • Bobby copied an author’s sentence into his notes but didn’t include quotation marks. Later, without adding quotation marks, he inserted that sentence in an essay, so it appeared to be his own writing. Bobby is guilty of plagiarism.

  • Cindy didn’t distinguish her own ideas from the ideas she got from her sources. Cindy is also guilty of plagiarism.

  • Dylan didn’t cite the source of a paraphrase or a summary in his paper or in his list of references. Dylan is guilty of plagiarism.

  • Farrah included a paraphrase of a published passage that was too closely worded to the original passage. Is Farrah guilty of plagiarism? Yes. To avoid the infraction, she should have just directly quoted parts or all of the passage (7).

Taking and Organizing Good Notes

As mentioned earlier, plagiarism is not always intentional and may be a result of poor note-taking. Here are a few tips for taking good notes and organizing them:

  • Include quotation marks around any quotes you write down (or type).

  • When paraphrasing a sentence or short passage, don’t keep looking at the source. Re-phrase the line or lines in your own words. Then check back with the original source, and revise your writing if need be.

  • Like a paraphrase, a summary also needs to be composed in your own words.

  • Whether you’re quoting, paraphrasing or summarizing, right next to the noted material include an abbreviation or a link to the source; don’t rely on your memory (8).

  • Another effective way to keep your notes organized is to color-code them to match each associated source.

  • Note-taking software, such as OneNote and Evernote, is also an effective way to keep your notes and sources organized.

A word about documentation: To determine whether you’re expected to adhere to MLA, APA, Chicago, AP, or some other style, refer specifically to the appropriate guide or the organization that you are writing for.

Next: You Can Plagiarize Yourself?!


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