You have something in common with the smartest people in the world. You see, everyone has ideas. We use our minds to create something original, whether it’s a poem, a drawing, a song, or a scientific paper.
Some of the most important ideas are published and make it into books, journals, newspapers and trustworthy websites that become the building blocks for things we all learn.
But ideas are also very personal, and we need dependable ways to keep track of the people behind the ideas we use because they deserve credit for their contribution, just as you do if someone uses your idea. Passing off another person’s ideas or words as your own, without credit, is called plagiarism. Whether it’s your friend’s term paper or words of a well-known author, plagiarism is cheating and dishonest.
Meet Cassie, a university student. She has an assignment to write a paper about changing weather patterns. Cassie’s project involves building on other people’s ideas that she finds in books, magazines, and websites.
She’s not the kind of person who would plagiarize by turning in someone else’s work, but she is aware that plagiarism can happen accidentally, so she follows some basic rules:
First, when she quotes an author directly, she uses quotations marks around the words to show that they are not hers, alongside a mention of the author’s name. She even does this in her notes to make sure she doesn’t forget.
Second, she’s careful to use only her own words when she’s not quoting directly. She can summarize or paraphrase an idea, as long as she’s accurate and references the original source. For example, she begins with “As Smith found”.
Third, ideas like drawings, speeches, music, structural models, and statistics can also be plagiarized. Like words, she can use them as long as she gives credit.
And lastly, she’s aware that some ideas are common knowledge and don’t need a source. For example, the idea that rain falls from clouds is common knowledge and doesn’t need a source, but rainfall measurements by a weather agency does require credit.
A few weeks later Cassie turned in her paper with the confidence that she had avoided plagiarism and maybe even provided some new ideas that other students in her field could use in the future, with credit, of course.
While Plagiarism can be intentional, it is more often caused by misunderstanding. Avoiding it means understanding the role of intellectual property and what makes plagiarism wrong. This video teaches:
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