If you’re the kind of person who is reading these blogs on the Defend and Publish website, you’re the kind of person who works hard to write well. You’ve probably struggled to come up with a clever turn of phrase. Maybe you’ve spent weeks alone in your University’s library trying to locate the evidence you need to support the main argument of your entire dissertation. You’ve written and rewritten. And then inspiration hit; the gears in your head turned; you found the right way to make your point, and you feel proud of your work, indeed. Now, imagine someone else using your carefully written words as their own, essentially stealing all the hard work and frustration you put in to craft and express your ideas. That’s just about the last thing you’d want to discover, right? While students are repeatedly told not to plagiarize, it still happens, and it is something that must be avoided at all costs. Plagiarism is representing the words or ideas of another as your own. Submitting papers that you haven’t written yourself is only the most blatant form of plagiarism. Plagiarism also includes, but is not limited to: copying another person’s papers; inappropriate collaboration with another student or writer; and verbatim copying, close paraphrasing, pasting in, or recombining published materials, including materials from the Internet, without appropriate citation. You’d rightly call a person who stole a twenty-dollar bill from your wallet a thief. Stealing somebody else’s words or ideas is no different. Fortunately, when it comes to writing, we have a way to respectfully borrow through appropriate quotation and citation strategies. Strong scholarship is built on the foundation of strong research, which means you will encounter words and ideas that express your point better than you could yourself. In itself, there is nothing wrong with using the work and words of another scholar, but you must give credit. After all, you want the same respect for your hard work!


Action Steps:

  1. Learn when you need to cite another person’s work. This includes both direct, word-for-word quoting as well as paraphrasing.
  2. Locate a reference to teach you the various formatting guidelines associated with your discipline’s preferred style (for example: APA, MLA, Chicago).
  3. When in doubt, ask someone for an explanation. Many universities have writing centers with tutors who can help and some websites offer cogent guidance.
  4. For in-depth, one-on-one help, hire a writing coach. It’s the coach’s job to teach you how to avoid making writing errors. Plagiarism is a big—but easily avoidable—mistake.