Intentional and unintentional plagiarism
Consequences of plagiarism |
Taking notes and paraphrasing |
The good news
about understanding plagiarism is that the concept at heart is simple: we
give credit to others for their ideas, and we give credit to others for
"instead of showing what you don't know, citing
your sources provides evidence of what you do know, and of the
authority behind your knowledge."
Writing Center Handout | Plagiarism
Giving credit for
The author of Ecclesiastes, a book of
the Old Testament, wrote, "there is nothing new under the sun" (1:9).
Teachers love for students to be original, but they know that whatever
spark from a student's mind creates an original thought, the ideas of
others provided the fuel for that thought. Therefore, as the handout
from the UNC Writing Center notes at left, there is no shame in citing
the ideas of others--in fact, just the opposite.
For example, students who read
criticism on a novel want their teachers to know that they have
understood the criticism and are responding to it. Students who read
about historical theories want their teachers to know that they are
thinking about those theories. Students who read about scientific
discoveries want their teachers to know that they are aware of those
discoveries--and so on.
Giving credit for
Just as we
give credit for ideas, so too we give credit for words by enclosing
them in quotation marks and indicating the source. However
simple, it is never acceptable to cut and paste a passage (whether a
few words or a paragraph or a page) and pretend it is our own work.
quotation at right indicates, a
quotation can provide wonderful support. But rather than pretend
we have written the
quotation, we enclose it in quotation marks and acknowledge
source. In this way we are giving credit to the author and making others aware of his or her words.
"By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all
--Ralph Waldo Emerson (Bartleby.com)
If it is clear
that we need to give others credit for their ideas and their words, it is
not always clear what we don't have to give credit for. People generally
agree that there is no need to provide credit for facts that are common
knowledge, but within the academic community there is some disagreement
about what common knowledge is.
Most everyone agrees that common knowledge includes facts that virtually
everyone knows: for example, that George Washington was the first
President of the United States. Beyond those most elementary of
facts, the picture is not so clear. Some teachers consider common
knowledge what students knew before they entered a course; others consider
common knowledge what everyone in a given class knows at a given time.
And some teachers consider common knowledge any fact that a person could
easily find in a variety of general reference works.
Baylor teachers agree with the final position: if we can easily find
a fact in a variety of sources, then we can consider that fact common
knowledge. A good rule of thumb is that we can consider as part of
the body of common knowledge any fact that we find in three unrelated,
reliable reference sources (not three places on the Internet copied from
the same source).
Beyond this basic agreement, different disciplines have developed
different conventions about common knowledge. To see the conventions
that Baylor teachers expect students to follow, click on the links below.