Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Let’s give a scenario…

ThinkstockPhotos-466604177A student, let’s call her Emmie, has been working long and hard on a paper for her ENG 111 class. In her opinion, it may be the best paper she has ever written! She turns it in feeling very satisfied, and then proceeds to take a short vacation to the beach. When she gets home, she checks Blackboard expecting to see an ‘A’. But in fact, she has received an email from her instructor discussing the Academic Dishonesty policy.

What?!?! Dishonest! Emmie is anything but dishonest!

But in fact, after reading her instructor’s comments she finds that she has (unknowingly) committed plagiarism. According to NOVA’s Student Handbook, plagiarism is “the act of appropriating passages from the work of another individual, either word for word or in substance, and representing them as one’s own work. This includes any submission of written work other than one’s own (Section VI, No. 4 pg. 73)”

Emmie looks at her paper and realizes that in fact she did commit plagiarism! She took ideas from books and papers that she had read, and put them in her own words. But when she did this, she didn’t give credit to the original author. She also put some direct quotes in her paper, but forgot to put a citation at the end of each quote.

Fortunately, Emmie’s instructor gave her the opportunity to correct her mistakes and resubmit her paper for a lower grade. However, the situation could have been much worse. She could have received an ‘F’ on the paper, or worse, an ‘F’ in the class.

So how can you avoid Emmie’s frustration?

Anytime you use a quote, a picture, a graph or even an idea from another work, make sure you cite where you got your information. Professors have access to a lot of tools that can help them identify plagiarism in your paper, and not knowing about plagiarism isn’t an excuse.

One of the best resources on plagiarism is the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s Avoiding Plagiarism. Check this website out to see other ways you can avoid the frustration that Emmie went through.

Research Series: Plagiarism

image of thief stealing form a safe with a red x superimposed on top; caption underneath reads: "Don't steal someone's work!"Everyone knows that directly copying another author’s work is plagiarism, but there are also less obvious forms . Plagiarism takes many forms and the consequences can be severe, so it pays to be well informed.


What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is copying an author’s work and passing it off as your own.

This definition may seem simple, but plagiarism can be much more complicated.  Did you know that you could be held responsible for plagiarism if you paraphrase (i.e., to put in your own words) an author’s work without providing a citation?  Even if you cite your source, if paraphrasing is not done correctly, you could still be plagiarizing.

Why bother citing?

The purpose of college-level research is to locate and analyze literature created by experts in your field, then process all of the information that you found to create your own new ideas or conclusions. Citations are important, because they give credit to the authors who helped you develop your ideas.  Citations also give your paper authority, because they show that you have read literature on the topic and that your conclusions build upon work of other authors. When you provide proper citations, your professors will see that you understand the purpose of college-level research.

When in doubt, cite!

When in doubt, cite it!  There are some cases where you may not need to cite (e.g., common knowledge [explained later]), but plagiarism is a “better safe than sorry” situation.  If you are not sure whether a source needs to be cited, go ahead and cite it!

If you aren’t sure how to cite, ask a librarian! Your NOVA Online librarians are citation/plagiarism experts and we are happy to help you. Please contact us at NOVA for more help.