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I am confused about Plagiarism.  Most things are learnt through reading.  Does this...

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fran1963 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 10, 2009 at 6:45 PM via web

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I am confused about Plagiarism.  Most things are learnt through reading.  Does this mean you are commiting plagiarism because you have read it?

Describe the milestones in early language acquisition.  You have to list the different stages which are the same in whatever book you read, i.e. babbling, cooing, forming sentences etc. It it listed everywhere and to write 2,500 on the milestones of language acquisition you will have to have read it somewhere.  Does this mean every line you write you have to name the book you read it from even if it is all in your own words.  You cannot make up the different stages it is written in blacke and white - help !

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 10, 2009 at 7:38 PM (Answer #1)

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This is a fairly common question about the nature of plagiarism.  The established understanding about it is that work is plagiarized if it has been copied from someone else and presented as your own work (see link below.)  That being said, there seems to be a line about where to cite and where one does not have to cite.  I think this might be the area that is open to interpretation.  The obvious way to receive clarification on the issue is to approach your professor/ instructor and ask him/ her what they hold as constituting plagiarism.  For example, would you have to cite the different stages of language acquisition if it established and common fact?  In my own concept of it, I feel that work that is someone else's such as analysis, perceptive insight, or some type of unique slant on the content should be attributed to its author.  If it is factual information that has been accepted as a foundational starting point for others to engage in their own understanding, perhaps it needs to be mentioned, but not cited.  I have always felt that there is no such thing as over-citing or citing work too much.  If anything, it shows due diligence in creating work.  Since there is much in the way of subjective analysis, I would see if a dialogue can be opened with instructor about their conception of the topic and how it can be navigated.

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 10, 2009 at 9:32 PM (Answer #2)

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This is an important question and needs to be  spelled out. Plagiarism is taking another person's words or thoughts without acknowledgement. The most common forms are plagiarism are as follows:

1. Directly taking a quote from another person's work without direct quotations and acknowledgement.

2. Even if you summarize or paraphrase another person's work in your own words, you need to cite where you got this information.

3. If a person coined a phrase or a word and you use it, you also need to acknowledge this.

4. Finally, if you get idea or concept from another source, you need to acknowledge it as well. If you do not, then you are stealing a person's idea.

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted November 10, 2009 at 9:50 PM (Answer #3)

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Plagiarism is trying to pass off some one else's ideas and written work as your own. It amounts to intellectual dishonesty and often attracts the severest penalties. Joseph Gibaldi and Walter S. Achtert in "The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers" define plagiarism as,

"the act of using another person's ideas or expressions in your writing without acknowledging the source."

There's no need to be confused at all. In order to avoid any doubt whatsoever, it is always a good practice to cite the source or sources of your ideas. To quote Gibaldi and Achtert.

"If you have any doubt about whether or not you are committing plagiarism, cite your source or sources."

Today, unfortunately the internet has made cyber plagiarism very effortless and easy. However you can take heart from the fact that today sophisticated software is available to check whether you have accidentally plagiarized your written assignments.

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