According to the American Association of University Professors, plagiarism is “”taking over the ideas, methods, or written words of another, without acknowledgment and with the intention that they be taken as the work of the deceiver” (Roig, 2006). Plagiarism takes many forms and cannot always be easy to recognize, but this paper will discuss some of the common forms that plagiarism can take, how to recognize it and then give a practical example of it in action.
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There are many ways that a writer can plagiarize the work of another, some of the quite purposeful, others inadvertent and still others out of ignorance. When most people think about plagiarize, they probably think about someone simply cutting and pasting the work of one person directly into their work. With the advent of computers and the Internet, this has certainly become easier. Another form of plagiarism is to present the ideas of another that are not yet in common knowledge as one’s own (Roig, 2006), The failure to adequately cite the source of information that one is using, both in-text and in one’s reference section,. is also a common (although sometimes an inadvertent) form of plagiarism (Walden University, n.d).
Perhaps the most common form of plagiarism, though, results from problems in the proper use of paraphrasing the work of an author that one is using on one’s work (Roig, 2006). While it can be a simple matter of a lack of knowing the best ways to paraphrase an author (Walden University, n.d.), it is still wrong. There are several ways in which paraphrasing can lead to plagiarism, First of all, a write can simply make a few changes in word choose or word order, but still keep the basic thrust of the author’s ideas (Walden University, n.d). Another problem can come when a writer does not provide a proper in-text citation for a paraphrase, thus leaving the reader with the idea that the work was original (Walden University, n.d). Yet another source of paraphrasing error is to distort the original meaning of the work cited (Roig, 2006), Finally, a writer needs to be sure that if they do use some exact phrases from another author in their paraphrase, the use quotations marks to identify those words, and also provide the proper citation.
How can one recognize plagiarism? There are actually many ways that one can detect it in another’s work. First of all, there are a number of software programs that will compare the work of the writer with other published material, and then report specific potential problems. This method will probably work best with examples of direct copying or paraphrasing with inadequate citations. One can also simply take a suspect phrase and run that through a search engine to see if the material is or is not original. Another effective way of detecting plagiarism is a result of knowing what can be called the “literary fingerprint” of a writer. Everyone has a unique style to their writing-word choice, sentence structure and length and even idiosyncratic ways of thinking, and when one is familiar with that, it will be fairly easy to detect plagiarism. It is also useful for a reader to be familiar with the field in which the author is writing. Familiarity with the major sources and authors will help a reader spot the times when a writer is taking credit for another’s work.
If one suspects that a particular section of a work is not original, one good technique for verification is to look at the suspect work and the original work next to each other. This helps a reader recognize many potential examples of poor paraphrasing, improper citation or direct copying. As an example of this process, following are an original text and the text written by a student for comparison. These examples are taken from Crossen, 1994 and (Coun 6100)
“Doctors, whose first allegiance is supposed to be to their patients, have traditionally stood between drug company researchers and trusting consumers. Yet unless there is evidence of misconduct (the deliberate misrepresentation of something as fact by someone who knows it is not), it is very difficult to discover and virtually impossible to prove that a piece of biomedical research has been tainted by conflict of interest. No study is perfect, and problems arise in the labs of even the most conscientious and honest researchers. Although biomedical research incorporates rigorous scientific rules and is often critically scrutinized by peers, the information can nevertheless be warped-by ending a study because the results are disappointing; changing rules mid-study; not trying to publish negative results; publicizing preliminary results even with final and less positive results in hand; skimming over or even not acknowledging drawbacks; and, especially, casting the results in the best light or, as scientists say, buffing them.”
Consumers must trust that the research that has gone into the manufacture of new drugs is safe. But it is hard to know if a conflict of interest between doctors, researchers, and the drug company stockholders has tainted the results. Biomedical researchers incorporate strict rules of science into their work, which is examined by peers. Yet the resulting information can be warped for five reasons: ending a study too soon, not publishing negative results, publishing results too early, skimming over or ignoring drawbacks, and “buffing” the results by showing them in the best light (Crossen, 1994, p. 167). (“Coun 6100, Week 4,” n.d., para. 7)
In this example, it is not too difficult to identify the ways in which the writer plagiarized their source material. One of the first examples, and it is glaring, is that they do a poor job of accurately including citations in their work. One can quickly see several examples of sentences that seem to represent the thought of the source writer but that are not individually cited.
The writer also follows the basic sentence pattern and argument flow of the source author, which is one type of plagiarism. With the exception of one rather poorly though-out sentence that implausibly involves stockholders in a conspiracy to distort results, one can clearly see that the writer simply took the source material and made a few changes and allows the reader to think that the ideas expressed are their own.
The last two sentences of the writer’s paragraph are very obviously plagiarized from their source, including some word-for-word copying of that source, without proper citation. Specifically the list of ways in which studies can be distorted is a combination of some word-for-word copying of the source without proper citation and some poor paraphrasing, which leaves the reader unsure about what part of the work is the writer’s and what part belongs to the source.
A better way of summarizing the last two sentences might be: Crossen (1994) argues that even research that would seem to be scientific on the surface nevertheless ” can be warped for five reasons: ending a study too soon, not publishing negative results, publishing results too early, skimming over or ignoring drawbacks, and “buffing” the results by showing them in the best light” (p. 167).
I use several strategies to avoid plagiarism. First of all, I use a program, Viper (http://www.Viper.com), to check all my work for plagiarism before I submit it for an assignment. Secondly, I try to follow the suggestion from the Purdue Online Writing Lab (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/01/). I have found that their suggestions are very helpful as one approaches an assignment. Finally, I try to read as widely in a field as I can beyond the assigned material, as this helps me have a good understanding of my topic, and it makes it less likely that I will improperly paraphrase another’s work.
Original Source, O’Connor, (2003)
“A good writer is one you can read without breaking a sweat. If you want a workout, you don’t lift a book-you lift weights. Yet we’re brainwashed to believe that the more brilliant the writer, the tougher the going.”
“The truth is that the reader is always right. Chances are, if something you’re reading doesn’t make sense, it’s not your fault-it’s the writer’s. And if something you write doesn’t get your point across, it’s probably not the reader’s fault-it’s yours. Too many readers are intimidated and humbled by what they can’t understand, and in some cases that’s precisely the effect the writer is after. But confusion is not complexity; it’s just confusion. A venerable tradition, dating back to the ancient Greek orators, teaches that if you don’t know what you’re talking about, just ratchet up the level of difficulty and no one will ever know.”
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“Don’t confuse simplicity, though, with simplemindedness. A good writer can express an extremely complicated idea clearly and make the job look effortless. But such simplicity is a difficult thing to achieve because to be clear in your writing you have to be clear in your thinking. This is why the simplest and clearest writing has the greatest power to delight, surprise, inform, and move the reader. You can’t have this kind of shared understanding if writer and reader are in an adversary relationship.” (pp. 195-196)
O’Conner (2003) argued that an author’s goal should be communication, not confusion- connection, not conflict. She argues that while writing in such a way that the reader is left feeling stupid or confused might make the writer feel superior, it only makes the going tough for the reader, and does not accomplish the goal of making a meaningful connection with the reader. She adds that while it is much easier to be an obtuse writer, but it makes more sense for an author to envision their readers as friends than as enemies, if they wish to excite, not overwhelm.
I think that I have several strengths when it comes to paraphrasing. First of all, I love to write and have a fairly large vocabulary, so I can usually think of creative ways to re-state what an author has said. Secondly, I am widely read in this field, so I usually have a clear understanding of what an author is saying, so I am comfortable accurately paraphrasing the basic meaning of a passage. Finally, because I am confident in my topic and what I am intending to say, I only look to other author;s to support my point, whereas it seems as though some writers almost use another author to make their point for them. When one uses a writer to essentially write for them, rather than just support them, there is a greater tendency, I think, to poor paraphrasing and expecially poor use of citations.
I think that my biggest need to a technical one:knowing when and exactly where to use a citation in an extended paraphrase, and when a direct quote might be best. There have been times when it might have been best to include several in-text citations, for example, rather than one, and it not always clear which course of action is best.
I have found several websites to which I refer on a regular basis to help me be clear on the best paraphrase and itation course to take. I fnd that Purdue’s site (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/01/) is very helpful, as is the Plagairism.org site (http://www.plagiarism.org/). Finally, I re-read Roig (2006) from time to time, as I find his discussion, most especially his emphasis on the plagiarism of ideas, to be very challenging.
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