Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the inclusion of someone else's words, ideas or data as one's own work.

Quite simply, it is the presentation, deliberate or not, of another person's words, ideas or research, without the proper acknowledgement of the original author. This is a very serious form of academic dishonesty. A student who plagiarises an assignment will not be given credit for that assignment and is likely to receive a failing grade for the course. Repeat offences could result in suspension from the university.

Plagiarism is divided easily into two broad categories: Complete Plagiarism (bold) and Reckless Plagiarism (equally dishonest though not so brazen). The following descriptions are from Plagiarism Avoided: Taking Responsibility for Your Work (UBC Faculty of Arts, 1999).

Complete Plagiarism

Completely plagiarised work can be a copy of material from any publication or from the Internet the work of another student, or any other source. Whatever its form, the defining characteristic is that the work is not yours.

Reckless Plagiarism

Most plagiarism may be deemed reckless, i.e. the result of careless research, poor time management, and lack of confidence in your own ability to think critically. Examples:

(1) Taking phrases or sentences, paragraphs, or statistical findings from various sources and piecing them together into an essay.

(2) Taking the words of another author and failing to note clearly that they are not your own. In other words, not setting a direct quotation within quotation marks.

(3) Using statistical findings without acknowledging your source.

(4) Taking another author's idea, without your own critical analysis, and failing to acknowledge that this idea is not yours.

(5) Paraphrasing (i.e. rewording or rearranging words so that your work resembles, but does not copy, the original) without acknowledging your source.

(6) Using footnotes or material quoted in other sources as if they were the results of your own research.

(7) Submitting a written assignment with inaccurate text references, sloppy footnotes or incomplete source (bibliographic) information.

Example

The following example shows a combination of complete plagiarism and one of the most common forms of reckless plagiarism: paraphrasing without acknowledging the source. The original source is John Douglas Belshaw, Colonization and Community: The Vancouver Island Coalfield and the Making of the British Columbian Working Class (Montreal, 2002), 197.

Original

In not every case were youths of mining families simply choosing wage labour over book learning. Other factors intervened as well. Labour disputes and mine accidents, for example, disrupted children's schooling, forcing them prematurely into the workforce.

The temporary loss of the breadwinner's source of income during a strike would have necessitated bringing all able-bodied wage-earners in a household into what was left of the labour market.

A plagiarised version

Not all youths of mining families simply chose to work rather than go to school. Other circumstances, for example a labour dispute or a mine accident, could force children prematurely into the workforce, thereby curtailing their schooling. The temporary loss of the breadwinner's source of income during a strike would have necessitated bringing all able-bodied wage-earners in a household into what was left of the labour market.

An acceptable version

Pointing to strikes and mine accidents as disruptions that might cause all able-bodied family members to seek some kind of employment at least temporarily, John Belshaw suggests that not all miners' children simply chose to work for wages rather than attend school.1

1John Douglas Belshaw, Colonization and Community: The Vancouver Island Coalfield and the Making of the British Columbian Working Class (Montreal, 2002), 197.

Note that this acceptable version credits the original author for the initial idea, brief1y gives the reasoning behind it, and is set up in an original form. The name of the author is given so that readers can refer to a bibliographic entry and find the original for themselves.

Reckless plagiarism is often the consequence of carelessness when taking notes. Students will paraphrase or summarise a work in ways that very closely follow the original text. They may neglect to add quotation marks to direct quotes. Weeks later, when writing their essays, they may forget which words are theirs and which are the original author's. This problem is easily remedied: when you take research notes remember to put all direct quotations within quotation marks. When you paraphrase or summarise, do so in what are truly your own words.

A more difficult problem arises when dealing with distinctive ideas rather than words.

The basic rule is to give credit to those scholars whose research and writings have guided your own thinking. In academia as in all phases of life, you rightly expect credit for your work. Give credit to others. When in doubt, cite!