22 Avoiding Plagiarism

 

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Image by Lsanabria licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Plagiarism is bad—don’t do it.

Often, when we identify instances of plagiarism, the plagiarist claims ignorance, saying that they did not know they were plagiarizing. Therefore, we want to take a moment to explain.

Please read carefully! Educate yourself. Do not put yourself and the Biocore staff in the unpleasant situation of having to deal with academic misconduct!

 

Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s words, ideas, or even graphical designs as your own.

The following are different examples of plagiarism:

  • Copying word for word from a published source or another student’s work without quotation marks and a citation is plagiarism. If you use someone else’s exact words, you must put them in quotation marks and cite the source.
  • Knitting together sentence fragments or paragraphs from various sources (sometimes called “Google-stitching”) is plagiarism. If you use someone else’s ideas, even if you paraphrase them, you must cite the source(s). This includes your classmates’ work as well as lab manuals and published sources.
  • Paraphrasing another student’s lab report is plagiarism. We want you to work together, and discuss projects and the ideas that you have about them with your classmates. However, written papers, posters, oral presentations and supporting slides must be your own individual work unless we specifically ask for a group report. In the case of group reports, you must identify your collaborators, just as all scientists do. Not doing will erode trust and the community.
  • Using another student’s graphical design or poster layout is plagiarism. You may draw inspiration from another students’ design, but be sure to make it your own.
  • Using someone else’s photograph or other image without credit is plagiarism. Some images are freely available for use without credit such as clip-art (like the ‘thumb-down’ image above), and images available from federal government agencies such as the USDA or NASA. Otherwise, images require a credit line referring to the artist, photographer, program/institute affiliation, and URL (web address) located either in the figure legend or directly below the image itself. You do not need to include the source of images in your Literature Cited section.

Here are two excellent campus resources explaining how you can avoid plagiarism by quoting and paraphrasing appropriately:

Sample Paraphrases: Unsuccessful and Successful

Paraphrasing is often defined as putting a passage from an author into “your own words.” But what are your own words? How different must your paraphrase be from the original? Based on the source paragraph below, consider two improper ways of handling source material: (A) word-for-word plagiarism and (B) “The Patchwork.”  At the bottom of the table is a model example of a legitimate paraphrase. You must understand how to differentiate proper from improper paraphrasing. You are responsible for your work as well as the consequences for plagiarism.

Source Paragraph

“Huntington’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that causes uncontrolled movements, emotional problems, and loss of thinking ability (cognition). Adult-onset Huntington disease, the most common form of this disorder, usually appears in a person’s thirties or forties. Early signs and symptoms can include irritability, depression, small involuntary movements, poor coordination, and trouble learning new information or making decisions. Many people with Huntington disease develop involuntary jerking or twitching movements known as chorea. As the disease progresses, these movements become more pronounced. Affected individuals may have trouble walking, speaking, and swallowing. People with this disorder also experience changes in personality and a decline in thinking and reasoning abilities. Individuals with the adult-onset form of Huntington disease usually live about 15 to 20 years after signs and symptoms begin. (From Genomic Home Reference 2014 https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/huntington-disease)

Different Forms of Paraphrase Plagiarism:

A. Word-for-word plagiarism from source

Huntington’s disease is a fairly common genetic disorder that occurs in 3 to 7 in 100,000 people of European ancestry (no citation). The disease is due to a mutation in the gene that codes for the protein huntingtin (no citation).

Huntington’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that causes uncontrolled movements, emotional problems, and loss of thinking ability (Genomic Home Reference 2014). Adult-onset Huntington’s disease usually appears in a person’s thirties or forties, and symptoms include irritability, depression, small involuntary movements, poor
coordination, and trouble learning new information or making decisions (Genomic Home Reference 2014). Affected individuals develop involuntary jerking or twitching movements known as chorea, may have trouble walking, speaking, and swallowing, and can experience changes in personality and a decline in thinking and reasoning abilities (Genomic Home Reference 2014). Adults with Huntington’s can live about 15 to 20 years after signs and symptoms begin (Genomic Home Reference 2014).

Notice that the writer has not only “borrowed” source material with no acknowledgment, but has also largely maintained the author’s method of expression and sentence structure. The underlined phrases are directly copied from the source. Even though the author acknowledged Genomic Home Reference as the source of the content, the language of the passage would be considered plagiarized because no quotation marks indicate the phrases that come directly from the source.

B. The Patchwork Paraphrase

Huntington’s disease is a disease of the brain that causes uncontrolled movements, emotional problems, and loss of thinking ability (Genomic Home Reference 2014). The disease typically appears in adults ages 30-40 with symptoms including irritability, depression, small involuntary movements, poor coordination, and trouble learning new information or making decisions. In addition, individuals may present twitching or jerking behavior called chorea, or develop difficulty walking, speaking, swallowing and can experience changes in personality. Although the symptoms are severe, many suffering Huntington’s disease can live up to 15-20 years beyond diagnosis (no citation).

This paraphrase is a patchwork composed of pieces in the original author’s language (underlined) and pieces in the student-writer’s words, all rearranged into a new pattern, but with none of the borrowed pieces in quotation marks. Thus, even though the writer acknowledges the source of the material, the underlined phrases are falsely presented as the student’s own.

Legitimate Paraphrase

Huntington’s disease is a disease of the brain that causes involuntary and unrestrained movement, loss of memory and capacity to reason, and changes in emotion (Genomic Home Reference 2014). The disease typically appears in adults ages 30-40. According to Genomic Home Reference (2014) symptoms can include “irritability, depression, small involuntary movements, poor coordination, and trouble learning new information or making decisions” together with changes to personality.  In addition, individuals may present symptoms of twitching or jerking behavior called chorea, or have difficulty moving, speaking, and swallowing. Although the symptoms are severe, many suffering Huntington’s disease can live up to 15-20 years beyond diagnosis.

The writer has documented the source material and specific language (by direct reference to the author and by quotation marks around language taken directly from the source). Notice too that the writer has modified the source language and structure and has added material to fit the new context and purpose — to present the distinctive functions of experts and nonexperts in several professions.

 

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Process of Science Companion: Science Communication by University of Wisconsin-Madison Biology Core Curriculum (Biocore) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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