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Plagiarism

Adapted, by permission, from Writing Tutorial Services handout, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.

In college courses, we are continually engaging with other people's ideas:  we read them in texts, hear them in lectures, discuss them in class, and incorporate them into our own writing.  As a result, it is very important that we give credit where credit is due.  Plagiarism is using others' ideas and words without clearly acknowledging the source of that information.

Nashua Community College's Plagiarism Policy
A student found guilty of plagiarism or cheating will receive a grade of "F" (failure) on the work in question.  The VP of Academic Affairs will be notified immediately.  The student will be placed on academic probation immediately, notified in writing to this effect, and warned if involved in a similar incident in the future, s/he will be dismissed from the College.

To avoid plagiarizing, you must give credit whenever you use:

  • another person's idea, opinion, or theory
  • any facts, statistics, graphs, drawings - any pieces of information - that are not common knowledge
  • quotations of another person's actual spoken or written words
  • paraphrase of another person's spoken or written words

Strategies for Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Put in quotations everything that come directly from the text - especially when taking notes.
  • Paraphrase, but be sure you are not just rearranging or replacing a few words.  Instead, read over what you want to paraphrase carefully; cover up the text with your hand, or close the text so you can't see any of it (and so aren't tempted to use the text as a "guide").  Write out the idea in your own words without peeking.Check your
  • paraphrase against the original text to be sure you have not accidentally used the same phrases or words, and that the information is accurate.

Appropriate Use of Others' Words and Ideas
Here's the original text, from page 1 of Lizzie Borden:  A Case Book of Family and Crime in the 1890s by Joyce Williams et al.:

The rise of the industry, the growth of cities, and the expansion of the population were the three great developments of the late nineteenth century American history.  As new, larger steam-powered factories became a feature of the American landscape in the East, they transformed farm hands into industrial laborers, and provided jobs for a rising tide of immigrants.  With industry came urbanization - the growth of the large cities (like Fall River, Massachusetts, where the Bordens lived) which became the centers of production as well as of commerce and trade.

Plagiarism and the World Wide Web
The World Wide Web has become a popular source of information for students' papers, and many questions have arisen about how to avoid plagiarizing these sources.  In most cases, the same rules apply as for a printed source:  when you refer to ideas or quotes from a WWW site, you must cite that source.  If you want to use visual information from a WWW site, many of the same rule apply.  Copying visual information or graphics from a WWW site (or from a printed source) into a paper is very similar to quoting information, and the source of the visual information or graphic must be cited.  These rules also apply to other uses of textual or visual information from WWW sites; for example, if you are constructing a Web page as a class project, and you copy graphics or visual information from other sites, you must also provide information about the source of this information.  In this case, it might also be a good idea to obtain permission from the WWW site's owner before using the graphics.

Terms You Need to Know

Common knowledge - facts that can be found in numerous places and are likely to be known by a lot of people.

Example: John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States in 1960.

This is generally known information.  You do not need to document this fact.  However, you must document facts that are not generally known and ideas that interpret facts.

Example: According to the American Family Leave Coalition's new book, Family Issues and Congress, President Bush's relationship with Congress has hindered family leave legislation (6).

The idea that "Bush's relationship with Congress has hindered family leave legislation" is not a fact but an interpretation; consequently, you need to cite your source.

Quotation - using somesone's words.  When you quote, place the passage you are using in quotation marks, and document the source according to a standard documentation style.  The following example uses the Modern Language Association's style:

Example: According to Peter S. Pritchard in USA Today, "Public schools need reform but they're irreplaceable in teaching all the nation's young." (14)

Paraphrase - using someone's ideas, but putting them in your own words.  This is probably the skill you will use most when incorporating sources into your writing.  Although you use your own words to paraphrase, you must still acknowledge the source of the information.