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What is Plagiarism?

 
Unshelved © 2002-2015 Overdue Media LLC, all rights reserved. "Unshelved" is a registered trademark of Overdue Media LLC. Used with permission
 

The Miriam-Webster online dictionary defines plagiarism as the act of stealing and passing off the ideas or words of another as one's own, or to use another's production without crediting the source. Some examples include:

 

  • buying or downloading entire papers from the Internet;
  • copying a section of a website into your paper and not giving credit to the author;
  • using any quantity of text -- even as little as a sentence -- written by someone else and not using quotation marks around the text or providing a citation;
  • paraphrasing or summarizing someone else's words or ideas without giving credit.
  • Submitting a previously work a second time, or submitting the same paper for multiple assignments (this is called self-plagiarism).
  • using any print or electronic written, musical, artistic or poetic work without acknowledging the original creator

 

Basically, plagiarism is theft; taking another person's ideas and/or work without giving them credit, whether it was intentional or not. 

 


Sources and image credits:

Catching Butterfly photo by Gan Khoon Lay, used under CC BY 3.0 United States/ "Plagiarism origin" modification is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by Kelsey MacGillivray

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Plagiarism. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved February 21, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plagiarism

Photo by Mohamed_hassan, used under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication /“Idea Thief” modification is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by Kelsey MacGillivray

Unshelved © 2002-2015 Overdue Media LLC, all rights reserved. "Unshelved" is a registered trademark of Overdue Media LLC. Used with permission

 

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Why do people plagiarize?

 

  • "It was an accident."
    Accidents do happen, and sometimes you may truly forget you copied information from another source. Remember, even if plagiarism is unintentional, there will still be consequences. Have you ever dented another car because you didn't see it? Even though it was not intentional, you are still responsible for your actions. In the same way, most professors will hold you accountable for your. It is your responsibility to ensure that you properly cite your work.
  • "That’s such a good idea how can I possibly say it any other way?"
    As new writers, students sometimes struggle to put the ideas of someone else into their own words. This is most likely to happen if you leave an assignment until the last minute or if you under- or over-research a topic. We will come back to this in the section dealing with how to avoid plagiarism.
  • "I ran out of time."
    There is so much information, and cutting and pasting is just so easy. Again, this goes back to giving yourself enough time to research and write up your assignments.
  • "It's not a big deal."
    Actually, plagiarism is a very serious academic offence as demonstrated by the huge number of students charged each year.

     
  • "No one will notice."
    There will be consequences. If a professor suspects that you have plagiarised they will investigate and they will confront you - usually with lots of evidence.

 


Sources and image credits:

Photo by steve_a_johnson , used under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

 

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Examples of Plagiarism

 

Below you will find examples of plagiarism. Some illustrate exact copying without quotation and the last example shows improper paraphrasing. These examples and comments should offer you guidance about how a source may be used and when a source must be cited.

Exact Copying Examples

1.) Original Source Material:
Frick, T. (1991). Restructuring education through technology. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.


My thinking about the role of technology in restructuring education has been shaped by what I learned from one of my professors, a wise and caring educational philosopher named Elizabeth Steiner. She contends that the essence of education consists of teachers, students, content, and contexts. For education to occur there must be a teacher who guides, a student who intends to learn, content to be learned, and a context or setting in which the guidance and learning occur.
 

Plagiarized version: (copied passage is underlined)

In order to examine the role of technology in education, we must first define the requirement of education. For education to occur there must be a teacher who guides, a student who intends to learn, content to be learned, and a context or setting in which the guidance and learning occur.

Correct version:
In order to examine the role of technology in education, we must first define the requirements of education. Frick (1991) names several components which must be present in order for education to take place: "a teacher who guides, a student who intends to learn, content to be learned, and a context or setting in which the guidance and learning occur" (pg 14).


In your reference list: Frick, T. (1991). Restructuring education through technology. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

Explanation:

This version is copied, word-for-word, from the original source material. No credit is given to the author of the text and quotation marks are not used. Also, no reference is provided.

Explanation:
This version begins with the author and year of the publication. Quotation marks are used to indicate that the passage is a word-for-word citation from the original document, and a reference list entry is provided.


2.) Original Source Material:

Frick, T. (1991). Restructuring education through technology. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

The concept of systems is really quite simple. The basic idea is that a system has parts that fit together to make a whole; but where it gets complicated -- and interesting -- is how those parts are connected or related to each other.

 

Plagiarized version:

A system has parts that fit together to make a whole, but the important aspect of systems is how those parts are connected or related to each other (Frick, 1991).


References: Frick, T. (1991). Restructuring education through technology. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

 

Correct version:

Frick (1991) states that "... a system has parts that fit together to make a whole ..." but the important aspect of systems is "... how those parts are connected or related to each other" (p. 17).

References: Frick, T. (1991). Restructuring education through technology. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

Explanation:
This version is plagiarized. Although the author is cited at the end of the paragraph, the passage is copied word-for-word from the original source material and no quotation marks are used.
Explanation:
In this version the passage begins with the author and year of the publication. Quotation marks are used to indicate that the passages are word-for-word citations from the original document. The author is listed in the references.

 


3.) Original Source Material:
Gredler, M. E. (2001). Learning and instruction: Theory into practice (4th ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Theories differ from philosophies and models of teaching. A philosophy is a value system, whereas a theory seeks to explain real-world events and can be certified through scientific investigation. Models of teaching are approaches to the management of some aspect of classroom instruction and they may not be independent of subject area, grade level, age of the student, or the setting for learning. A characteristic of learning theories is that they address the underlying psychological dynamics of events. Thus, they provide a mechanism for understanding the implications of events related to learning in both formal and informal settings.

 

Plagiarized version:
Theories and philosophies are different from each other because theories seek to explain real-world events and can be certified through scientific investigation. Learning theories address the underlying psychological dynamics of events, so they provide a mechanism for understanding the implications of events related to learning in both formal and informal settings.

Correct version:
Theories and philosophies are different from each other because, according to Gredler (2001) theories seek

to explain real-world events and can be certified through scientific investigation... A characteristic of learning theories is that they address the underlying psychological dynamics of events. Thus, they provide a mechanism for understanding the implications of events related to learning in both formal and informal settings. (pp. 12-13)

References: Gredler, M. E. (2001). Learning and instruction: Theory into practice (4th Ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
 

Explanation:
This version is plagiarized. Passages from the original work were used and inserted into original prose, however this is still an example of word-for-word plagiarism. No credit was given to the author in the text, quotation marks were not used, and the work was not listed in the references.

 
Explanation:
In this version an indented block is used to indicate that this passage is a word-for-word quotation and the pages where it was taken from the original document. The original author of the content is cited at the end of the passage and in the reference section as well.

 

Paraphrasing Examples

1.) Original Source Material:

 

Merriënboer, J. J. van. (1997). Training complex cognitive skills. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

 

During the last decade, there has been a shift from "instructivist" approaches towards "constructivist" approaches in the field of instructional design. Instructivist approaches reflect the belief that the role of knowledge is basically to represent the real world. Meaning is eventually determined by this real world and [is] thus external to the understander.

 

Plagiarized version:
Over the last ten years, there has been a marked change from "instructivist" points of view to "constructivist" points of view among instructional designers. Instructivist points of view hold the belief that the role of knowledge is fundamentally to represent the real world. In this view, meaning is determined by the real world and is therefore external to the learner.

References: Merriënboer, J. J. van. (1997). Training complex cognitive skills. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Correct version:
Instructivists hold that the "real world," external to individuals, can be represented as knowledge and determines what will be understood by individuals. This view has been shifting to a constructivist view over the past decade (Merriënboer, 1997).

References: Merriënboer, J. J. van. (1997). Training complex cognitive skills. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.
Explanation:
This example has been plagiarized. The writer has substituted synonyms for many words in the passage, but has not changed the structure of the text and has used another person's ideas without crediting that person.

 
Explanation:
This example has been paraphrased and the original author has been credited for those ideas. The writer has cited the source of the ideas appropriately, and included the source in the reference list.


 


Sources and image credits:

Adapted from:
How to recognize plagiarism. (2005.) Retrieved February 29, 2008 from Indiana University, School of Education: http://www.indiana.edu/~istd/examples.html

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What is 'self-plagiarism'?

 

Self-plagiarism is reusing all or part of a work you have previously submitted in a new assignment -- you are plagiarizing your own work. Most traditional definitions of plagiarism do not account for self-plagiarism, but it is still an ethical problem and considered a form of academic fraud.

"But I'm the original author -- they're my own words," you say. "How can I plagiarize myself?"

Plagiarism is not only taking words or ideas from another person without credit, but also misrepresenting a work as original when it has in fact been published or submitted elsewhere. When a professor gives you an assignment, it is expected that you will write something original to show your understanding of the subject you are studying and to give yourself practice at writing proper academic papers and citing them correctly. By resubmitting something you had written for another class, you are commiting fraud, lying to your professor that you created something original for their assignment.  You are also denying yourself the chance to improve your writing, learn something new about what you are studying, and to develop your research skills, all of which could make more comprehensive assignments you are given later on more difficult. 

At the professional level, resubmitting works for publication can also lead to copyright infringement and other such legal troubles. It's just not a good idea.

There are certain situations in which a professor might allow you to expand upon a work you had submitted for them previously, or submitted for another class, but that is something you must discuss with them. The assignments you are given in class usually have different requirements and context than a class you took previously, and you should be creating a new work to reflect that. If you must refer to a previous work you have written, you must cite it properly as you would any other source.

 

 


Sources and image credits:

American Psychological Association. (2019). Plagiarism. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/citations/plagiarism

Photo by MaxPixel, used under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication 

Turnitin. (2016, July 20). Is recycling your own work plagiarism? https://www.turnitin.com/blog/is-recycling-your-own-work-plagiarism

"What is plagiarism and self-plagiarism" by Royal Roads University Library, used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license

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Famous cases of plagiarism

People who have been accused of plagiarism include not only academics, but also music artists, authors, journalists, etc.

Jayson Blair, 2003 - Journalist Jayson Blair resigned as a columnist from the New York Times newspaper when it was found that 36 of the 73 articles he had written for the Times were full of fabrications and plagiarized passages. 

Michael Bolton, 1991 - Bolton’s song “Love is a Wonderful Thing” was musically similar to a song by the Isley Brothers released in 1964 with the same name. Although a federal appeals court agreed with the jury’s finding that the similarities were due to subconscious copying, the 5.4 million that Bolton and Sony were ordered to pay was "one of the biggest awards ever in a music copyright case” at the time.

Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, 2013 - A federal jury found enough similarities between Thicke and Williams’ song “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give it Up” by Marvin Gaye (1977) to be worth more than $5 million, paid out to Gaye’s estate.

Ed Sheeran - In 2017, Sheeran paid an out-of-court settlement of $20 million to songwriters Thomas Leonard and Martin Harrington due to the similarities his song “Photograph” had to Leonard and Harrington’s song, “Amazing” (2009). He is currently facing another copyright infringement lawsuit due to allegations of plagiarizing Marvin Gaye’s song “Let’s Get it On” (1973) with his song “Thinking out Loud”. The date of the trial has been delayed due to COVID-19.

Other popular artists accused of plagiarism include Johnny Cash, Madonna, Led Zeppelin, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Drake, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, and Ariana Grande. 

Chris Spence, 2013: A former director of the Toronto District School Board, he had his Ph.D. stripped away and his teaching license revoked after it was determined he had plagiarized passages in several newspaper articles he’d published, blogs, books, and even his Ph.D. dissertation.

Kaavya Viswanathan, 2006 – Viswanathan was a student of Harvard when it was determined that several portions of her book,  “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life”, had been plagiarized from several other authors. Although the author claimed her copying to be “unintentional and unconscious”, she lost lucrative contracts for follow-up books and a potential movie deal.

Other authors accused of plagiarism include Martin Luther King Jr., Jane Goodall, Melania Trump, Hellen Keller, Dan Brown.

 

As you can see, plagiarism can have serious consequences not only in academia, but in your career and life as well. So how can we avoid it?

 

 

 

Sources and image credits:

Gordon, A. (2018, February 7). Chris Spence loses appeal to keep PhD amid plagiarism findings. Toronto 

Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/02/07/chris-spence-loses-appeal-to-keep-phd-amid-plagiarism-findings.html

Kesslen, B. (2018, December 13). Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams to pay $5 million to Marvin Gaye estate

for ‘Blurred Lines’. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/music/robin-thicke-pharrell-williams-pay-5-million-marvin-gaye-estate-n947666

Lee, E. (2019, August 2). How Katy Perry could have won dark horse lawsuit. The Washington Post.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/08/02/how-katy-perry-could-have-won-dark-horse-lawsuit/

Rosen, J. (2003). All about the retrospect. American Journalism Review, Vol. 25(5), 32.

Rosenbaum, C. (2020, October 16). Ed Sheeran ‘Lets Get It On’ plagiarism trial pushed back due to

COVID. Billboard. https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/9467259/ed-sheeran-lets-get-it-plagiarism-trial-postponed-ed-townsend

Wang, A. X. (2019, August 2) Why all your favorite songs are suddenly being sued. Rolling Stone.

https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/features/katy-perry-led-zeppelin-ed-sheeran-music- lawsuits-865952/

Did you know?

The word 'plagiarism' (and 'plagiarize') comes from the Latin plagiarius, which means 'kidnapper'!