What is plagiarism?
The most common offense under the Academic Code of Conduct is plagiarism, which the Code defines as "the presentation of the work of another person, in whatever form, as one's own or without proper acknowledgement" (Article 19a).
Plagiarism involves copying material, either word from word or as a paraphrase, from anything ranging from books, to internet sites, course notes, oral or visual presentations, lab reports, computer assignments, or artistic works.
Plagiarism does not refer to words alone - it can also refer to copying images, graphs, algorithms, tables, and ideas. A "presentation" means more than written work: it means any method by which you submit work to your instructor. Even translating the work of another person into another language without citation is plagiarism.
When you write a research paper, you have to explain where you got your information. Some of the ideas you use will be your own, but many will have come from information you have read or people you have interviewed about the topic. To explain where the information comes from, you have to give (cite) the source correctly. Be careful about asking someone to review your paper, or if any editor changes your paper substantively.
- To give your writing credibility. You show that you have gathered ideas from worthwhile sources.
- To help the reader, by enabling them to check and read those sources if they wish.
- To prevent yourself from committing plagiarism.
- All words quoted directly from another source.
- All ideas paraphrased from a source.
- All ideas or materials borrowed from another source: images, videos, artwork, statistics, graphs, algorithms, charts, etc.
- All ideas or materials taken from the Internet.
You do not have to cite sources for knowledge that is generally known, like the dates of famous events in history or the names of past Prime Ministers. Similarly, phrases like the "generation gap" are generally understood by the public.
Disciplinary common knowledge
Within your field, there may be terms which are "common knowledge" because they are part of the knowledge shared by people in that field, like the "language experience approach" for educators, or the term "Impressionism" for art enthusiasts.
When in doubt, it is prudent to cite!
When you are using someone else's exact words, you need to place quotations marks ("...") around the words. You also need to be careful not to rephrase or reorganize the words; otherwise you could be misrepresenting the author. If you want to leave out part of the author's sentence you can use three ellipsis points (...) to show the words which have been omitted.
Directly after the quotation, you should indicate where the information comes from, using one of the standard citation methods (such as MLA, APA, Chicago, IEEE, etc.) to document your sources. For more specifics, refer to the Concordia University Library's Citation and Style Guides.
Many students are unclear about paraphrasing. It is not acceptable to take the original phrasing and to rearrange a few of the original words, or to use synonyms to replace those words in order to produce a paraphrase; neither is it acceptable to use the same sentence structure, but just rephrase a few key words. When you paraphrase, it is important that the words used to express an idea are different from the original. It is your understanding of the content/text in your own words and not just the author’s text in your own words.
“Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotation in the final research paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes.” Lester, J. D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976) 46-47
In research papers, students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester, 1976).
A plagiarized version
Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes (Lester, 1976).
When you paraphrase, make sure to understand what the original is saying, then close the book and write the passage in your own words. Also, note that you need to cite a source when you paraphrase even though you did not quote from the source directly. In the examples above, the source, Lester, is given after the paraphrase. When you are paraphrasing rather than using exact words, mentioning the page number in the source parentheses is optional, but check with your professor as some may prefer you to include it.