The Least You Should Know About Plagiarism and Maintain Your GPA

by Susan Thomas

What Is Plagiarism?

Outside the academic world, plagiarism, breach of copyright, is addressed in the court system.

Within the academic community, plagiarism is also considered a serious offense that may warrant punishment ranging from F's on assignments, to F's for an entire course, to suspension or expulsion from an institution.

When plagiarism occurs in a DeKalb College class, the professor has the prerogative to deal with the incident in class or to refer the case to the College Court. Likewise, the student charged with plagiarism has a right to appeal the case to the College Court. Essentially, incidents of plagiarism fall into two categories:

Category One

If students deliberately misrepresent written work as their own when in fact that work is, totally or in part, the copyrighted work of someone else, these individuals are rightly termed plagiarists.

Example A

Students in an English 203 class are required to write a personal analysis of a character in the play Antigone, without reading any outside material. One student purchases a copy of Cliff's Notes on Antigone, a copyrighted work, and paraphrases that book's description of the main character. The student makes no mention of the fact that the ideas were taken from a copyrighted outside source and thus tries to lead the professor to believe the ideas are the student's. This student is guilty of plagiarism.

Example B

Students in an English 101 class are required to write an essay on a personal hero. One student finds an essay on this subject in an old English textbook, which is of course copyrighted, and, changing words and some details of this copyrighted essay, submits this essay as her own. This student is guilty of plagiarism.

Example C

Students in an Art 101 class are required to visit a special exhibit on the works of Jacob Lawrence at the High Museum and to write a personal response to these paintings. On the way out of the museum, the student picks up a free brochure describing the Lawrence exhibit. The student then paraphrases the introduction to the brochure and never mentions that these ideas did not originate with him. He is guilty of plagiarism.

Example D

A student in Acct 201 gains access to the Solutions Manual for her textbook and copies the solution or parts of the solution as homework. Not only is this action blatant cheating, it is copyright infringement since the author of the manual holds the copyright to the material that the student submitted, language and all, to her professor as her homework.

Category Two

If students fail to handle copyrighted material properly within their written assignments -- that is, according to the style required by the professor or, if the professor does not specify otherwise, according to a standard style recognized in the academy (e. g., American Psychological Association (APA), University of Chicago, or Modern Language Association (MLA) style) -- the students are guilty of plagiarism. Information from online services such as Compuserve or America Online and other computer networks and databases, including the Internet, must be documented, even though a particular style manual may not provide a specific format. Consult your instructor or professor if you have questions about documenting online information.

James D. Lester's 7th edition of Writing Reasearch Papers: A Complete Guide, which is available in the College Bookstore, explains in detail the MLA Style, as well as APA and styles used in the sciences and business. DeKalb students may also seek help with documentation techniques from Instructional Support Services (ISS) in the Learning Resource Centers. 1. The first step to proper documentation is providing proper bibliographic citations for sources listed alphabetically on the paper's Works Cited page or pages. Students are obligated to give publication information sufficent for their readers to locate that source readily in a library.

The following are very basic examples of bibliographic citations that do not cover all cases:

Book

MLA Style requires, in order, the minimum information of author(s), book title and subtitle, city of publication, publisher, and copyright date.

     Snodgrass, Ermintrude. Eating and Thinking: Nutrition and

          Brain Development. New York: U of Snellville P, 1994. 

APA Style requires the same minimum information for a book, but in a different order. Note the differences:

     Snodgrass, E. (1994). Eating and thinking: Nutrition and

	brain development. New York: U of Snellville P.

Journal / Magazine

MLA Style requires, in order, the minimum of author(s), article title, publication titles and -- depending on how often the periodical is issued -- either volume number, year, and inclusive pages, or date, including year, and inclusive pages. Note below that the first article appears in a periodical that comes out only four times per year, whereas the second periodical is issued weekly:

  
     Short, Eugenia. "You Are What You Eat." Nutrition Journal

          73 (Summer 1994):142 - 47.

     Smith, Hortense. "The Costs of Fad Diets." Teenagers

          Magazine 7 July 1993: 45 -57.

APA Style reguires the same information, again in another order. Please note the differences:

     Short, E. (1994). You are what you eat. Nutrition Journal,

	73, pp. 142 -147.       

     Smith, H. (1993, July 7). The costs of fad diets.

	Teenagers Magazine, pp. 45 - 57.   

The above are illustrations of citing very basic copyrighted sources. Other sources require more complicated citations. For instance, how should students cite an article printed in a book containing several articles by different writers? Don't guess. Ask your professor, look up the citation in a style manual, or ask for help from Instructional Support Services.

2. The second step to avoiding charges of plagiarism is to handle both paraphrases and direct quotations within the written assignment in the correct manner.

According to MLA Style, ALL borrowed ideas -- both those expressed in the student writer's own words and those directly quoted from the copyrighted source -- must be

(1) introduced with the name of the idea's owner or another appropriate attribution; (2) enclosed by quotations marks if original phrasing is used; and (3) closed with a specific page reference, within parentheses, indicating the exact location of the borrowed idea in the source listed on the Works Cited page of the paper.

Example of MLA Style

          Recent studies should serve as a warning to those
     habituated to the annual pre-swimsuit crash diet every
     March. Research indicates that rapid weightloss programs
     are not only a waste of time but also a health risk and
     a detriment to long-term weight management. Writing in
     Nutrition Journal, Eugenia Short charges that rapid
     weight loss really means only loss of water from the
     body and notes that the body quickly regains this water
     loss once the diet is completed (145). Such observations
     suggest that rapid weight loss is an exercise in
     futility. As Short concluded: "Weight lost in March will
     be back by April Fools" (146).  Hortense Smith of the
     National Nutritional Institute reported more ominous
     findings: "Diets that suddenly restrict calorie intake
     trick the body into reacting as it would to starvation;
     that is, the thyroid automatically slows down" (46 -
     47). Alarmingly, Smith adds, this slowing is
     irreversible, making future weight loss more difficult
     (46). Smith's warning could explain why some many people
     who diet frequently seem unable to achieve permanent
     weight loss. Such approaches to weight loss are costly
     wastes of time that involve genuine health risks.

APA Style handles paraphrased and quoted in a different manner. According to APA, borrowed ideas are introduced with the last name of the idea's owner, followed by the article's date of publication within parentheses. If the borrowed idea is a direct quotation, the specific page number of the idea follow the date within the parentheses. Notice that APA requires the abreviation for page (p.) and pages (pp.).

Example of APA Style

          Recent studies should serve as a warning to those
     habituated to the annual pre-swimsuit crash diet every
     March. Research indicates that rapid weightloss programs
     are not only a waste of time but also a health risk and
     a detriment to long-term weight management.  Short
     (1994) charged that rapid weight loss really means only
     loss of water from the body and notes that the body
     regains this water loss once the diet is completed. Such
     observations suggest that rapid weight loss is an
     exercise in futility. As Short (1994, p.46) concluded:
     "Weight lost in March will be back by April Fools." 
     Smith of the National Nutritional Institute (1993, pp.
     46 - 47) reported more ominous findings: "Diets that
     suddenly restrict calorie intake trick the body into
     reacting as it would to starvation; that is, the thyroid
     automatically slows down." Alarmingly, Smith (1993)
     added, this slowing is irreversible, making future
     weight loss more dificult.  Smith's warning could
     explain why some many people who diet frequently seem
     unable to achieve permanent weight loss. Such approaches
     to weight loss are costly wastes of time that involve
     genuine health risks.

College professors expect their students to deal with copyrighted material conscientiously and accurately. Excuses of sloppiness or ignorance are not acceptable. The burden rests with the students to cite borrowed material accurately. Students should know that incidents of plagiarism in a paper rarely indicate the reason for that incident -- ignorance, carelessness, or dishonesty. Therefore, students are well advised to learn the rules for handling someone else's copyrighted material prior to submitting an assignment. Professors have the right to bring charges of plagiarism, even if the student cites ignorance as the excuse.


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