As students and scholars, we are constantly engaging with other people's ideas: we read them in texts, hear them in lecture, discuss them in class and encounter them on the web. Appropriately, we are influenced by the ideas of others and incorporate them into our own thinking and writing. To facilitate the free exchange of ideas among scholars, we give credit to those from whom we borrow words, images or ideas.
In simplest terms, writers must distinguish their own words from the words of others by placing the words of others within quotation marks, with appropriate citations to the sources of quoted text. Neglecting to do so is plagiarism: stealing the words, images or ideas of others without clearly acknowledging the source of that information.
This page is intended to explain what plagiarism is and offer strategies to help you give proper credit when you use the words and ideas of others.
If you have questions about the proper way to cite someone else's words or ideas in your own writing, ask your instructor or contact an adviser in the Writing Assistance Center, 115 Andrews Hall, 402-472-8803.
The honest creation of new knowledge, discovery of new facts, new ways of looking at the known world and original analysis of old ideas are basic academic values. However, the simple repetition of the words and thoughts of someone else does not lead to the level of understanding an educated person is expected to have (Standler, 2000). Those who accurately acknowledge the work of others earn both the satisfaction of generating new knowledge through honest effort and the respect and esteem of their professors, colleagues and professional peers.
Why is academic integrity so important? We value integrity because the entire scholarly enterprise is balanced on the assumption that we can trust one another. Imagine what it would be like to open a book or a conference proceeding or a music score and have even a fleeting concern about whether the compiled work is misrepresented. It would not be possible to do scholarship in that environment. Our trust in the advancing edge of our disciplines depends upon our complete trust in one another's honor.
The prohibition of plagiarism is not unique to educational institutions. If the expression of an idea is recorded in any way or fixed in some medium — such as a piece of writing, drawing, photograph, painting, or web page — it is considered intellectual property and is protected by U.S. Copyright Law. To plagiarize is to steal the property of someone else, a blatant infringement of the law (Turnitin Research Resources, 2005).
Please be aware that plagiarism in any form, however minor, is a violation of the UNL Student Code of Conduct, section 4.2.a.3, which defines plagiarism as: "Presenting the work of another as one's own (i.e., without proper acknowledgment of the source) and submitting examinations, theses, reports, speeches, drawings, laboratory notes or other academic work in whole or in part as one's own when such work has been prepared by another person or copied from another person."
Graduate students are held to a "zero tolerance" standard for all aspects of the Student Code of Conduct, including plagiarism. The most common sanction for graduate students who engage in plagiarism is suspension or expulsion.
When to give credit
To avoid plagiarizing, give credit every time you:
- use or refer to another person's idea, opinion or theory from a "magazine, book, newspaper, song, TV program, movie, web page, computer program, letter, advertisement, or any other medium" (OWL, 2003)
- cite or state any facts or statistics that are not common knowledge
- quote another person's exact spoken or written words, either taken from the media listed above or heard first hand through conversation, interview or email (and these words must be placed within quotation marks)
- reprint (or use as a basis for graphics you create) any graphics, illustrations or pictures from any of the media listed earlier
- paraphrase another person's spoken or written words
Examples of proper use of others' words and ideas
To illustrate an example of plagiarism, as well as proper ways to use the words and ideas of someone else, we present a short original passage, followed by examples of a plagiarized paraphrase and an acceptable paraphrase.
Here is the original text from page 1 of "Dengue Fever in Humanized NOD/SCID Mice" by D.A. Bente, et al. in the Journal of Virology, November 2005:
Dengue virus infections in humans can be subclinical or can cause illnesses ranging from a mild, flulike syndrome with rash and some hemorrhagic manifestations (dengue fever [DF]) to a severe and sometimes fatal disease, with coagulopathy, capillary leakage, and hypovolemic shock (dengue hemorrhagic fever [DHF]).
1. Unacceptable paraphrase
Dengue virus infections in humans can range in intensity from subclinical manifestations, to a mild flulike illness with a rash and some hemorrhaging (dengue fever [DF]) to a severe and sometimes fatal disease with blood clotting defects, leaking capillaries, and hypovolemic shock (dengue hemorrhagic fever [DHF]).This is considered plagiarismbecause the writer has:
- only changed around a few words and phrases
- failed to cite a source for any of the facts or ideas
2. Acceptable paraphrase
Dengue virus infections affect humans in a variety of ways. In some, the disease doesn't show up at all; others may have a rash and some minor bleeding, while still others may experience severe bleeding, shock, and even death (Bente et al., 2005).This is acceptable paraphrasingbecause the writer:
- accurately relays the information in the original
- uses her own words
- lets her reader know the source of her information.
3. Acceptable paraphrase with quotation
In humans, dengue virus infections can range from mild to severe, from a flu-like syndrome "to a severe and sometimes fatal disease, with coagulopathy, capillary leakage, and hypovolemic shock" (Bente, et al., 2005, p.1).This is acceptable paraphrasingbecause the writer:
- gives credit for the ideas in this passage
- indicates which parts are taken directly from the source by putting them in quotation marks and citing the page number.
Terms to know
Facts that can be found in many places and are likely to be known by many people.
Example: John F. Kennedy was elected president of the United States in 1960.
This is generally known information — you do not need to document this fact. However, you must document facts that are not generally known, as well as ideas that interpret facts.
Example: According to the American Family Leave Coalition's new book, Family Issues and Congress, President Bush's relationship with Congress has hindered family leave legislation (6).
The idea that Bush's "relationship with congress has hindered family leave legislation" is not a fact, but an interpretation; therefore, you need to cite your source.
A verbatim repetition of someone's words. When you quote, place the passage in quotation marks and document the source according to a standard documentation style.
Example: According to Peter S. Pritchard in USA Today, "Public schools need reform but they're irreplaceable in teaching all the nation's young" (14).
Using someone else's ideas but putting them in your own words. This is the skill you will use most often when incorporating source material into your own writing. Although you use your own words to paraphrase, you still must acknowledge the source of the information.
Choosing the path to academic integrity(Love, 1998, as cited in Karrmann, 2005; Manninen, 2005)
Myths that Make Plagiarism Seem to Be the "Easy Way Out"
How to Resist the Easy Way and Take the Path Less Traveled
Sources citedLove, Patrick G. (1998). Factors Influencing cheating and plagiarism among graduate students in a college of education." College Student Journal December: 539-50. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. 3 Mar. 2000. http://www.epnet.com. As cited in Plagiarism Prevention (2005), http://www.uwplatt.edu/library/reference/plagiarism.html. Elton Karrmann Library: University of Wisconsin, Platteville.
Manninen, Tuomas (2005). Plagiarism resources and links. http://www.uiowa.edu/~centeach/plagiarism/faq.html. Center for Teaching: University of Iowa.
OWL (Online Writing Lab). (2003). Avoiding plagiarism. http://owl.english.edu. Purdue University.
Standler, Ronald B. (2000). Plagiarism in colleges in USA. http://www.rbs2.com/plag.htm.
Turnitin Research Resources (2005). How to paraphrase properly. http://www.turnitin.com/research_site/e_home.html.
Portions of this material were borrowed or adapted with permission from
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