"Plagiarism, forgery, misrepresentation and
other dishonest or deceptive acts constitute grounds for academic
warning or dismissal from the College."
ESC Student Handbook (2000-2001), p. 25
warning or dismissal from the College.” Even if students unknowingly
- This is stern punishment
- What is plagiarism
and why is it taken so seriously?
I. FIVE USEFUL PRINCIPLES OF WRITING IN AN ACADEMIC ENVIRONMENT
To understand the
prohibition against plagiarism and your own responsibilities in this
issue, you must understand the following five principles of the environment
you are now entering — Academia.
First: Knowledge is
made up of many ideas built upon each other; what we know is a continuum
of many different people's work.
Second: As a student
you are a responsible and contributing member of the college community.
Thus your work is considered a part of that continuum of knowledge.
What you say is understood in this light; for that reason, it is
very important that your mentors, and other members of the college
community, know what work is yours.
Third: The third principle
logically follows from the first two. All scholars and students
are required to give credit where credit is due by differentiating
between ideas that belong solely to them and ideas that come from
other people. More than a mere matter of courtesy, it is unethical
for a writer to give the impression that he or she is presenting
original work when that is not the case.
Fourth: Honesty is not
the sole purpose of accurately identifying one's sources. When a
writer clearly identifies his or her sources, others know where
to find that information. What we believe to be true is a collaborative
effort of a variety of individuals with their own backgrounds and
opinions. So, for the sake of others who may want to explore your
topic further, you must provide a means for tracing "the continuum
of ideas" with which you are working.
Fifth: Perhaps the
most frustrating principle with regard to plagiarism (especially
for new students) is that, even when it is unintentional, you are
still responsible for the offense and liable for its consequences.
Thus it is in your interest to familiarize yourself with the rules
governing plagiarism in order to be absolutely sure that you are
not unwittingly taking credit for material that is not fully your
II. TIPS FOR AVOIDING PLAGIARISM
Easier said than
done!!! What if you're writing a paper on family issues in the workplace,
and you're not certain if what you have to say is original? Everything
you'd like to say seems to have already been said by one of the authors
you have read. Here are a few tips:
To avoid passing
off the author's viewpoint as your own, or to let it stand as a
substitute for your own, you must first acknowledge the author,
then go on to say why you think this viewpoint is or is not valid.
In doing so, you have not only appropriately cited your source,
but you have drawn a conclusion about the validity of that source
and thereby made an original contribution to our understanding of
Being able to
paraphrase, or summarize, an author's viewpoint without resorting
to direct quotations is valued. It shows that you've read, and understood,
what the author has said so well that you can use your own words
to describe that viewpoint. Remember, when paraphrasing, even
though the words are yours, the idea belongs to someone else who
must be given credit; failing to do so is plagiarism.
of words or phrases without using quotation marks — even if
the source is cited — is plagiarism too. Not only does this
mislead your reader into thinking you wrote words you didn't write,
it gives the false impression that you understood the author's ideas
well enough to paraphrase them. Whenever you lift words verbatim
from a text, they must be enclosed within quotation marks.
Some words and facts don't need to be cited because they are considered
knowledge that is a part of the public domain or "common
knowledge." We all agree, for example, that Christopher
Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492 (though we may differ as to
whether or not we should celebrate that event), that the boiling point
of water is 100 degrees Celsius (though different experiments will
use this fact to different ends) and that Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry
Finn (though we may argue about the novel's racial politics).
These facts will appear in sources, and can appear in your papers,
without a citation because they've been established by many different
authorities. An author's unique interpretation of these facts,
however, requires a citation. If you are in doubt about whether
a certain piece of information is common knowledge or interpretation,
it is a good rule of thumb to cite it.
The format for citing
authors will vary, depending on whether your area of study is in the
humanities or sciences, but the need to avoid plagiarism by adequately
documenting the source of your information remains the same. For further
information on the different citation styles (whether it be APA,
MLA or the
Style Manual), speak to your mentor or contact the ESC Writing Center.
Concerns about plagiarism can be overwhelming, partly because it's
taken so seriously and partly because it's not always easy to know whether
or not you have unintentionally plagiarized. If the rules governing plagiarism
still seem fuzzy, speak to a Writing Center tutor. He or she can help
clarify what to many new students is a confusing and somewhat nerve-wracking