Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Plagiarism: What You Need to Know

It is that time of year again, the time when we have to start thinking about writing a research paper.  In between making sure you have picked a topic, found sources, and used the proper citation format, you also have to think about plagiarism.  Merriam-Webster’s (2011) online dictionary defines the term plagiarize as: “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own.”  Plagiarism is taken seriously and it can lead to severe consequences (see the articles from The New York Times below).

What can you do to avoid plagiarism?  Here are some tips from the Purdue Online Writing Lab (2010):

  •  Take notes: While you are reading information on your topic, takes notes of what you have read.  Make sure you include where you got direct quotations from (author, article, & page #).  Notate information from a specific source and your ideas separately, for example highlight your ideas in yellow while information directly from a source can be highlighted in green.
  • Write a paraphrase or summary:  When you are writing a summary or paraphrase of what you have read, try not to look at the notes you have taken.  Verify that your sentence structure in the summary or paraphrasing does not match the original source exactly (also plagiarism).
  • Keep all drafts/revisions of your paper:  Instead of saving just one copy of your paper over and over again while you are revising it, make a new file for each revision of your paper.  This way you can go back and compare the files to make sure you have cited properly and have correct quotation information.
  • Proofread:  Proofread your paper to make sure you have used quotations correctly, cited information correctly and paraphrased properly.

The library offers several books and e-books that can help you with any questions you may have on how to avoid plagiarism.  Some examples:

Reference Librarians are available answer your questions on plagiarism.  You can also search online for information on avoiding plagiarism.  

The publication Policy Statements 2011 – 2012 for Students, Faculty and Staff was created by the Division of Student & Educational Services and it discusses academic dishonesty including plagiarism.  The full text of the policy can be found here:

There are consequences for being caught plagiarizing.  Here are some articles from The New York Times on the consequences of plagiarism:


Division of Student & Educational Services. (2011). Policy statements 2011 – 2012 for students, faculty and staff.  Frostburg, MD: Frostburg State University, Division of Student & Educational Services.  Retrieved from:

Plagiarize. 2011.  In  Retrieved from:

Safe Practices (2010).  Purdue Online Writing Lab.  Retrieved from:

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