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Athabasca University

Plagiarism

These tutorials from York University, and The University of Southern Mississippi, and the University of Essex, U.K. will help you test your knowledge of plagiarism and proper documentation practices.

Plagiarism and How to Avoid It

Please be certain that you understand what plagiarism is and how it should be avoided. (See specific Athabasca University guidelines and penalties.)

What is Plagiarism? Plagiarism occurs when one submits or presents others’ ideas or composition passages in a written piece of work as if it were one's own work done expressly for that particular course. Plagiarism may take several forms:

  1. Failure to cite sources properly may be considered plagiarism. This could include quotations, ideas, and wording used from another source (books, journals, monographs, academic papers, student essays), but not acknowledged. This includes material, paragraphs, sentences, word groupings cut and pasted from the Internet that are not properly cited.
  2. Borrowed, purchased, and/or ghost written papers are considered plagiarism, as is submitting one's own work for more than one course without the permission of the instructor(s) involved.
  3. Extensive paraphrasing of one or a few sources is also considered plagiarism, even when notes are used, unless the essay is a critical analysis of these works. The use of notes does not justify the sustained presentation of another author's language and ideas as one's own.
  4. Consequently, plagiarism is the use of others’ ideas without attributing a source. The use of others’ words without placing them in quotation marks plus providing a source is the form of plagiarism that will most likely get you into serious troubles.

To Avoid Plagiarism

  • Write your essay without your books and notes in front of your eyes. That way your essay will be in your words and reflect your understanding of what you have read (remember that a 5-year-old can copy out the book. So, while a stringing together of quotes is not plagiarism, it is not acceptable. It gives the marker no impression of whether you have understood any more of the course materials than the average child of five might have understood).
  • After you have completed the first draft, check back in your books to see whether you got things right, add all necessary references, and, add in quotes (sparingly!) that seem particularly helpful in making your points. These should be pithy conclusions of authors or particular examples that strengthen your points. They should never be narrative statements. If you cannot provide narrative in your own words, you do not know the materials well enough and need to go back to the drawing board.
  • Check and then double-check that you have referenced ALL the statements in your paper that are more than objective statements that no one can challenge, e.g. Confederation occurred in 1867 and initially resulted in the creation of a federal government and four provincial governments. Anything that appears to be a judgment of an event or a phenomenon requires a reference—book or article and sometimes, page numbers. Check your documentation style for the correct formatting of citation and referencing of paraphrases and quotations.
  • Check and then double-check that all the words that you are quoting ARE in quotes, and that the words that are not in quotes are really yours!
  • References are extremely important. Make sure that they are correct. A marker will not be impressed if she or he reads that page 37 of Book A is your source, and then opens up to that page to find that the topic is not written there, or that the author argues the opposite of what you have indicated in the essay.
  • Before you do an assignment or answer an exam questions, read it very closely and be sure that you answer all parts of it. Students who may know their material sometimes perform poorly because they make too many assumptions about what is required in assignments. If you do not answer a question, or if you fail to answer all parts of a question, your grades will reflect your reading errors.

Perhaps this all sounds a bit prescriptive. However, be assured that these comments are the result of our observations about pitfalls that students have fallen into in the past. We hope that you will avoid these pitfalls, and that you will enjoy your studies.

© Dr. R.G. (Rod) Martin
State and Legal Studies (History)
Athabasca University

Adapted with permission from Dr. Alvin Finkel

Updated October 28 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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