Plagiarism – What is it and how do I avoid doing it?

As Salem State First Years begin their academic careers here at Salem State, they will be diving into the world of collegiate essays and research papers. It is important that we expand ourselves through our writing by conveying our own ideas and writing in our own styles; but, there are times where others’ ideas and writings help support our own arguments in papers; when we use other people’s works as contributions to our own, we must give credit to the original author – otherwise, we are plagiarizing, which is a very serious offense.

What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is academic theft. It refers to the use of another’s ideas or words without proper attribution or credit. An author’s work is his/her property and should be respected by documentation. Even unsigned materials, anonymous works or works without listed authors, must be given credit to retain academic integrity. Plagiarism includes claiming someone else’s ideas as your own, copying and pasting from a web document without attribution, and paraphrasing others’ works without attribution.

When Do I Need to Give Credit?
Credit must be given to another in your writing when:

  • A direct quotation of any length is used
  • When a work is paraphrased or summarized in whole or in part in your own words
  • When information provided is not “Common Knowledge” (“Common knowledge” is defined as information that appears substantially the same in several general sources such as textbooks or encyclopedias) – an example of Common Knowledge would be something along the lines of, George Washington was the first president of the United States.

How Do I Give Credit to Another For Their Work?
In writing, we give credit to another for their work and ideas through citation; citations include information such as the name of the author, the company that published the work, when the work was published and other valuable information. There are several different forms of citation with different structures used for different subject materials including MLA format, APA format, and Chicago style. Information on how to write a correct citation along with bibliographies can be found at this link: Purdue Owl

How Do I Avoid Plagiarizing?
To avoid plagiarizing, here are some tips:

  • Don’t leave your citations until you are done with your paper: this is a lesson many students learn the hard way. They write their essay and say to themselves, “Oh, I’ll just do my citations later – what matters is that I finish the content of this paper.” The issue with this is that we often confuse ourselves or even forget which source we got our information from, especially in cases where you are using many, many sources. Create a citation for your bibliography immediately, and do your in-text citations properly as you write; this way when your paper is done, it is actually in all completeness done! The proper author’s have been given the credit they so rightly deserve and you will have avoided plagiarism
  • There’s no such thing as too much credit: if at any point in your writing you think to yourself, “do I need a citation here?” the answer to your question is probably YES! Write that citation into your paper, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. This brings us to our next point, which is
  • Talk to your professors: if you think you are citing things you do not need to be citing, or maybe you are not citing enough, your professors should be able to help you; they will tell you if your citations are correct, ways to simplify your citations and can inform you where there should be a citation in your work.

In the spirit of giving credit to others, this information was found and can be accessed by others on the Salem State Website!
I hope this information will be helpful in your academic writing adventures!

– FYM Kelly


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