Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism in plain terms is stealing or cheating of ideas of others and saying that they are yours. In today’s world of strict copyright laws and increased awareness about intellectual property rights, plagiarism has become a much focused issue. Universities and schools have a strict, detailed policy on plagiarism. Publishers, newspapers, magazines have also followed the suite and joined the academic community in taking strong stance against plagiarism.

I come from a country where plagiarism in schools is seen as something normal and accepted. I used to write whole sentences from the text books without acknowledging the source, never realizing that I am cheating or that I am stealing. When I came to the to attend Graduate School, I had to attend a lecture on academic honesty and US laws on copyright and intellectual property. That is when I first heard plagiarism and that it is something against the law. In the initial days it was difficult for me to keep in mind that if I write a sentence from some book I will have to put it in quotes and then credit the person. My professors, seeing this suggested me to check online resources which have presented the tips on preventing plagiarizing in simple terms. They were usually university sites, maintained by the English or the writing department. It was a big help.

Mostly I used to visit the page on plagiarism maintained by the Honor Council of Georgetown University at: http://gervaseprograms.georgetown.edu/
hc/plagiarism.html
. They have examples and illustrations on what counts as cheating and what does not. For example, they have shown two paraphrases of the same paragraph, explaining which one is acceptable and for what reasons. This makes it easier for students to understand that just paraphrasing does not set them off the hook. Even in paraphrasing certain norms have to be followed, like crediting the author and making sure that it a paraphrase not just different arrangement of words.

The information provided by Indiana University on ways to avoid plagiarism is also helpful. The page at http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/
pamphlets/plagiarism.shtml
has tips on avoiding plagiarism like, when you begin to write about something, you read the text book then keep it away and start writing on your own, using your own words and expressions. There is no escaping that you must credit the author when you use their theory, ideas or write what they have said, but there are certain topics and information which are called “universal knowledge”, which can be used without crediting the author. For example: the fact that earth is round or that is in Asia. Sometimes deciding what is universal knowledge and what is not is not that easy, especially after the information explosive brought about by the internet. The best way to solve this, according to the

Purdue University OWL website is “Generally speaking, you can regard something as common knowledge if you find the same information undocumented in at least five credible sources.” (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/
owl/resource/589/02/
)

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