By Michele Kirschenbaum, Library Media Specialist
You’ve seen it in the news. A musician accused of stealing a song, a politician’s speech picked apart for being similar to another’s, or a plagiarism inquiry into a well-known scientist’s research report. No doubt, being accused of plagiarism is the worst. It’s embarrassing, totally humiliating, and undermines an individual’s talent and authority.
Learning how to prevent plagiarism (and citing in MLA and APA) is something you’ve probably spent time learning in school before. But, did you know there are a few, often overlooked ways to plagiarize? Check out these three types of plagiarism that tend to sneak into assignments:
You might be shocked when you read this, but you can plagiarize yourself! It sounds crazy, but it’s 100% true. Self-plagiarism is the result of recycling your own material without citing it.
It’s totally tempting to hand in a previously submitted research paper as a “new” project, but doing that means you’re not developing the fresh, current research your teacher expects. Also, if your research paper was picked up by an academic journal for publishing, it can become the property of the journal publication.
Can you reuse projects and information from previously written assignments? You sure can! You simply have to cite it the same way you’d cite other sources. Or, if there’s an old paper that would work perfectly for a new assignment, ask your teacher or professor if you can repurpose it and expand upon it in a new way. If you decide to do this, try out BibMe’s thesis citation form.
Poor paraphrasing or patchwriting
Ever tried rewriting an author’s sentence, but it ended up too close to the original? That’s exactly what patchwriting is. In a nutshell, it’s a poor attempt at paraphrasing. While it’s often an innocent mistake, patchwriting usually happens when a writer doesn’t completely comprehend the original author’s words. The writer uses the original author’s idea, but replaces the original text with synonyms. Even if the writer includes an in-text or parenthetical citation, if the paraphrase is too close to the original, then it’s patchwriting, resulting in plagiarism.
How do you paraphrase properly? Here are a few step-by-step guidelines:
- Take some time to fully comprehend the original author’s words or idea. If you’re having difficulty with comprehension, use a search engine to read up on tricky words or subject-specific language. Sometimes it helps to ask a friend to clarify what you’re reading.
- Once you’ve fully grasped the author’s meaning, put his or her words to the side, and rewrite what you’ve read. Use your own words and style of writing, but weave in the original author’s concepts and ideas.
- Include an in-text or parenthetical citation, along with a full text citation at the end of your project.
Here’s an example of a paraphrase that isn’t patchwriting:
Original text from the book, Libraries in the Ancient World by Lionel Casson:
“The very first problem the Ptolemies faced was acquisitions. Egypt boasted a long and distinguished culture, and there were books aplenty throughout the land—in Egyptian. There were Greek books to be bought in Athens and Rhodes and other established centers of Greek culture, but not in newly fledged Alexandria. The Ptolomies’ solution was money and royal high handedness.”
As a new, flourishing cultural center, The Library of Alexandria was in need of rich literature from other prominent areas. Where did the Ptolomies look? Greece. The Ptolomies used their money and power to obtain books from nearby Athens and Rhodes (Casson, 2002, p.34).
Full text citation at the end of the assignment:
Casson, Lionel. Libraries in the Ancient World. Yale UP, 2002, p. 34.
Including full-text citations and forgetting in-text citations
What goes together like peanut butter and jelly? Peas and carrots? Chips and salsa? Let’s give it up for the beautiful duo of in-text and full-text citations. Where there’s one, there has to be the other. Unfortunately, students and scholars sometimes forget to include the total package in their work. Many are guilty of including only full text citations at the end of a project. While that’s helpful, that’s only half the battle.
In-text and parenthetical citations are found in the body of a project, next to a direct quote or paraphrase. They provide readers with a quick glimpse as to who created the original idea, when it was created, and sometimes the page number, depending on the citation style being used. Readers can quickly see the origin of the quote or paraphrased information, and continue reading the research paper, without disturbing the natural flow of the writing.
The in-text citation in the research paper corresponds with the full citation at the end of the assignment.
Here’s an example of an MLA citation in the body of a project :
In the beginning of the novel, the reader is made aware that the father’s business is somewhat corrupt, when young Tabby shares, “Daddy likes to have business talks outdoors, away from prying ears” (Egan 32).
The full MLA citation at the end of the assignment looks like this:
Egan, Jennifer. Manhattan Beach, Simon & Schuster, 2017.
Remember, if you include a full citation at the end of the project, there should be a brief citation in the actual text of the paper. And vice versa. Always include both. Don’t leave one citation without its trusty old friend.
Next time you’re prepping for research paper, keep these pesky plagiarism villains at bay. Being accused of plagiarism is pretty embarrassing, but it’s 100% preventable.
When your research is complete, don’t forget to run your writing assignment through a plagiarism checker, like the one you can find right here on BibMe Plus! This will help you not miss a citation or accidentally pick up text from your research. You can also check your assignment for grammar errors like a misspelled pronoun, incorrect subject-verb agreement, an uncapitalized proper noun, and more!