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Avoiding Plagiarism
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Be An Original: Don’t Plagiarize!

In both academic and professional work, establishing a reputation for honesty, integrity and trustworthiness is important. One of the best ways to do that is to avoid plagiarism.

The Latin word ‘plagiarius’ means ‘kidnapper,’ according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Plagiarism can be seen as a form of kidnapping or theft, since it involves taking another person’s work and/or ideas and passing them off as your own. If you take words or ideas that are not your own and do not give credit to the true source of those words or ideas, then you may find yourself accused of plagiarism.

Plagiarism can occur intentionally and unintentionally.

Intentional Plagiarism
This involves taking another person’s work and ideas, or the expression of those ideas, and knowingly presenting them as if they are your own without mentioning the true source. Plagiarism includes copying writing, charts, graphs, quotes, illustrations, photography, music, as well as copying and pasting copyrighted material from the internet.

Unintentional Plagiarism
Someone can unintentionally commit plagiarism just by not knowing what information needs to be cited and/or not following the accepted ways of citing sources.

Unintentional plagiarism can take the following forms:

  • omitting to mention the source of information;
  • forgetting to put quotation marks around the exact words someone else has spoken or written;
  • using copyrighted material;
  • paraphrasing or summarizing ideas from another source without giving proper credit to that source;
  • mistaking information that comes from a specific source with common knowledge, which doesn’t need to be cited.

Common Knowledge

Common knowledge is just that, knowledge that is common to most people. Rather than originating from a specific source, common knowledge consists of information that is widespread and can be found in many sources, such as historical facts and dates. For example, writing that "Sir John A. MacDonald was the first prime minister of Canada" does not require citing a specific source. also defines common knowledge as follows: "Generally or widely known fact that may be accepted as true without investigation or verification." For example, stating that "Allergy sufferers experience hay fever in the spring" does not require citing a specific source.

Success is Simple: Check This List

In order to develop a reputation for accuracy and trustworthiness, use the following tips as a checklist when preparing and presenting material.

Start by keeping an accurate record of your research and the sources of the information you are planning to include in your essay, report, presentation, etc. Note down the title, author and page number or web url so you can easily find your source when needed.

Place quotations marks around another source’s exact words.

Be sure to name the author and/or document when quoting exact words from another source,

When paraphrasing and summarizing another source’s ideas or expressions, change the wording and sentence structure rather than repeating the words, phrases or sentence structure of the original source.

Make the source of information clear when paraphrasing and summarizing with phrases such as "According to…"

Citing Sources: Why Bother?

The benefits of correctly documenting and citing sources are well worth the time and effort involved. Citing sources shows that your work is thorough and accurate, and that you have explored a wide base of knowledge. This gives you and your work authority and credibility. Anyone who wants further information can also refer to your bibliography as an additional resource.

On the other hand, the consequences associated with plagiarism include not just losing respect or credibility, but losing one’s job. Well-known newspaper reporters and photographers have been fired for copying reports, faking photos and fabricating quotations.

It’s easy to respect and trust someone who cites sources. Protect and promote yourself as a professional: don’t plagiarize!

For more specifics on plagiarism, the risks, and correct forms of documentation and citation, see Business Communication Now, pp. 251-256.

Business Communication NOWOnline Learning Center

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