Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism:
A Kennesaw State University Student’s Guide

Plagiarism:

A Misunderstood Subject

Most English classes at Kennesaw State University require a source-based essay. Every syllabus at KSU states that the penalties for plagiarism are exceedingly stiff, even for accidental plagiarism.

Many students do not understand plagiarism, believing that plagiarism is simply copying another’s paper. How could one accidentally copy another’s paper?

Plagiarism is a complex issue. There are a lot of ways to plagiarize. What you think may be just using sources correctly can get you suspended.
“I didn’t mean to” is never accepted as an excuse at KSU.

Another Misconception: Some students mistakenly believe that every teacher is different when it comes to plagiarism. Some believe that English professors don’t agree on what plagiarism is, and that there probably isn’t any set of rules.

Here is a link to the KSU Department of Student Conduct and Academic Activity that spells out the penalties at KSU for plagiarism: https://web.kennesaw.edu/scai/content/why-cheatingplagiarism-wrong-and-what-will-happen-if-i%E2%80%99m-accused-academic-misconduct

 

Plagiarism is . . .

Documentation Styles

Avoiding Plagiarism in In-text Citation and Paraphrasing

Avoiding Plagiarism using Brackets and Ellipsis & Sic

Getting Busted: An Example

Avoiding Plagiarism in the Works Cited Page

Internet Resources on Citing: The Trademark of a Good Writer (thanks to Cheryl!)

Further Tips and Warnings

 

You Have Received the Rules

There most definitely is a set of rules.

In every English handbook there is a section on plagiarism with rules and examples. You are expected to have read the plagiarism sections and understood the rules, even if you’ve never, ever had an English teacher say the word “plagiarism” to you.


Plagiarism is . . .  

Plagiarism is Pretending Another’s Information is Your Own

  • Copying another’s entire paper and claiming it as one’s own
  • Copying information from a source and pretending that information is one’s own.

Plagiarism is Using Quotation Marks Incorrectly 

  • Copying information from a source word for word without putting quotes around those words--whether or not the source is cited there in the paper or on the works cited page

Plagiarism is Improper Citation

  • Copying information from a source but changing the words around without providing an in-text citation--whether or not the source is cited on the works cited page.

Plagiarism is Sloppy Documentation

  • Copying information incorrectly, putting quotation marks around it, including a proper in-text citation, citing it properly on the works cited page.
  • Copying information correctly with quotation marks, including a proper in-text citation, but no citation on the works cited page.

Plagiarism is Quoting Inaccurately

  • Changing the spelling of a word, changing a letter from upper to lower case, or changing the verb tense in an exact quotation without indicating it as such with brackets or ellipses

You Might Be Asking Yourself,

How do I know what an in-text citation is?
A direct quote? What other kind is there?
How do I use quotation marks?
And what are brackets and ellipses?


Documentation:

MLA Documentation Style

In most English classes across the country, footnotes are a thing of the past. Proper documentation is MLA documentation. This page will use MLA documentation.

Look in your handbook under MLA (Modern Language Association), or go to the MLA site created by Purdue's O.W.L. You will see headings offering to explain to you “parenthetical citations” or “in-text citations” and “works cited” formats.

Other Documentation Styles

There are other documentation styles besides MLA. These include APA, IEEE, CBE, Toburen, and Chicago Style. You may not “mix and match” documentation styles. In most English classes, you must use MLA. In some classes, you may have a choice of documentation styles.

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What are Parenthetical or In-Text Citations?  
  • Parenthetical or in-text citations are used in MLA whether you quote directly (word for word, verbatim) from the source, or paraphrase (put it completely in your own words)
  • They include the page number or numbers on which you found the information

Paraphrasing:

  • Paraphrasing isn’t just changing the words around
  • Consult a handbook: when you paraphrase, you cannot use any of the same nouns or verbs and you cannot use the same sentence structure. Failure to observe the rules of paraphrasing will result in the penalties of plagiarism

Use Parenthetical or In-Text Citations

  • If the essay has more than one source, the parenthetical citation includes the author’s last name and the page number: (Twain 23)
  • If the essay has only one source, the citation includes the page number only: (23)

 

Parenthetical or In-Text Citations: An Example

Our example involves a paper on horses using Alice Walker’s book, Anything We Love Can Be Saved as a source.

We read page 169, where Walker writes, “Horses are some of the most beautiful creatures Nature has devised. They are a symbol to us of all that is graceful, fluid, and free. Our Souls need them.”

We begin our paper by writing,

Horses are beautiful.

Is this plagiarism?

No. Many people see horses as beautiful. This is common knowledge. As you have read in your textbook, you don’t cite common knowledge.

We continue writing,

Horses are symbols to us of grace and freedom.

We know that we have taken this idea from Walker, but we changed the words around quite a bit. Is this plagiarism?

Yes. This idea is not common knowledge. People do not walk around thinking, “Oh, horse, symbol of grace and freedom!”
So, the idea must be credited to Walker. How do we do that? First, make sure there is no word for word quotation here.

Consider the Following Examples. The underlined portions show us where we have quoted word for word. We need to put quotation marks around those two sections of words, or put those two sections in our own words, or quote the whole thing directly from Walker. We also need to change the sentence structure. Right now, our “paraphrase” is plagiarism.

Our Words: Horses are symbols to us of grace and freedom.
Walker’s words:Horses are some of the most beautiful creatures Nature has devised. They are a symbol to us of all that is graceful, fluid, and free. Our Souls need them.”

Our Words:Horses are symbols to us of grace and freedom.
Walker’s words: “Horses are some of the most beautiful creatures Nature has devised. They are a symbol to us of all that is graceful, fluid, and free. Our Souls need them.”

Also note that in these previous examples, the words symbol, grace, and free are altered in form, but not changed.

In order to paraphrase effectively,

Horses are symbols to us of grace and freedom.

Becomes:

According to Walker, the iconography of elegance and liberty are well represented by the horse.

 

Parenthetical or In-Text Citations: A Paraphrase Example

We can credit Walker before the information is presented and put the page number at the end:
According to Walker, the iconography of elegance and liberty are well represented by the horse(168).

Or we can put Walker and the page number at the end:
The iconography of elegance and liberty are well represented by the horse(Walker 168).

If Walker is the only source we use in our essay, we can simply put the page number:
The iconography of elegance and liberty are well represented by the horse (168).

 

Parenthetical or In-Text Citations: A Direct Quotation Example

We decide to use Walker’s phrase “Our Souls need them” from the following excerpt:

“Horses are some of the most beautiful creatures Nature has devised. They are a symbol to us of all that is graceful, fluid, and free. Our Souls need them.”

There’s no real way to paraphrase that sentence.
This is definitely a job for a direct quote.

We write,

Horses bring many hearts in motion; they fulfill some of our deepest fantasies and desires. They have moved the most eloquent of writers to say of horses, “Our Souls need them” (Walker 168).

Let’s look at what we have done.

They have moved the most eloquent of writers to say of horses, “Our Souls need them” (Walker 168).

If your reader wanted to know who this “most eloquent” writer was, all he or she would have to do would be to consult the works cited page of the essay to find out it’s Alice Walker.

Remember what we quoted:
“Our Souls need them” (Walker 168).

What if, while proofreading, we think, “I want that to be less assertive-sounding for stylistic reasons” and change the quote to

“Our Souls may, sometimes, on rainy days, need them” (Walker 168).

Is that what Walker wrote? Compare the two:
Original
“Our Souls need them” (Walker 168).

Changed
“Our Souls may, sometimes, on rainy days, need them” (Walker 168).

Is this an improvement? That’s not the point. The point is, the quote is now incorrect. We have changed Walker’s words. No one has permission to do that to Alice Walker, or any writer used as a source.
Now the quotation is plagiarized.

Quotations must be quoted EXACTLY.
If changes are made, they must be indicated as such.

It may be tempting to clean up Benjamin Franklin’s grammar or to give Emily Dickinson some real punctuation, but such changes are plagiarism.
Don’t let your spellcheck make such changes, either.
Consult your handbook for special rules about quoting poetry or 4 or more lines of non-poetry.

 

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Brackets and Ellipses

Changing the spelling of a word, changing a letter from upper to lower case, or changing the verb tense in an exact quotation without indicating it as such with brackets or ellipses is plagiarism.
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses . . .

Brackets

Brackets are used in a direct quotation to indicate that a word has been altered in some way or added.

Original
“Our Souls need them” (Walker 168).

Changed and Properly Bracketed
“Our [s]oulsneed[ed] them” (Walker 168).


Ellipses Inside Brackets

Ellipses are used in a direct quotation to indicate that a word has been taken out
Original
“Horses are some of the most beautiful creatures Nature has devised. They are a symbol to us of all that is graceful, fluid, and free. Our Souls need them” (Walker 169)
Changed
According to Alice Walker, “Horses are [ . . . ] beautiful” (169).

These ellipses show that there are words in the sentence that are missing in the direct quote.
Original
“Horses are some of the most beautiful creatures Nature has devised. They are a symbol to us of all that is graceful, fluid, and free. Our Souls need them” (Walker 169)

Changed
According to Alice Walker, “Horses are [. . . .] symbol[s] [. . .] of [ . . .] free[dom]” (169).
These ellipses and brackets indicate changes.

Ellipses with brackets are also used when you need some information from a direct quote, but not all of it. You put ellipses--three dots--in to show that a portion of a sentence has been taken out.

Ellipses to show that more than one sentence has been taken out are also used. Then, there are four dots. Even if you take out three sentences, you still use just four dots.


Brackets

Brackets have other uses. What if you wanted to change the verb tense because the rest of your paper is in past tense?

Original
“Our Souls need them” (Walker 168).

Past tense
“Our Souls need[ed] them” (Walker 168)

OR
Our Souls [needed] them” (Walker 168).

Sic

What about that capital letter ‘S’ in “Souls”? What if we just correct it?

Original “Our Souls need them” (Walker 168).

Changed “Our souls need them” (Walker 168).

THIS IS PLAGIARISM! DO NOT CHANGE THE ORIGINAL!


If a grammar error is bothering you, use [sic] to show that it is not your grammar error, or use brackets to indicate change.

“Our Souls [sic] need them” (Walker 168).

“Our [s]ouls need them” (Walker 168).

If you have more questions about ellipses and brackets, consult your handbook under “quotations” or “brackets” or “ellipses.”

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You Might Wonder . . . How in the world will an English professor (or another professor) know what I’ve copied or what I’ve changed? 

Actually, that’s how students get busted--they don’t follow the rules and they leave a sloppy plagiarism trail behind them.

Let’s view a few excerpts from student papers, shall we?

An excerpt from Halifax’s (imaginary student's) paper on getting rich in America:

It is really hard to get ahead in this country, and many people don’t realize it, but hegemony here designates participative moral-intellectual leadership, not the reified mechanical consensus that legitimizes bourgeois authority. And that’s what needs to be done.

What do you think Halifax would say if the professor called her in and asked her, what is ”the reified mechanical consensus that legitimizes bourgeois authority”?

She might reply, "What are you talking about?" Or, she might not be able to explain this particular concept.

Busted.

"But I didn’t know!"
"I didn’t mean to!"

You see, whether Halifax means to or not, she is saying these are her own ideas. They are actually E. San Juan Jr.’s ideas in his book Racial Formations/Critical Transformations. It’s not too hard to figure out: Halifax is plagiarizing. She will get an F for her paper.

Excerpt from Elke’s (imaginary student) paper on the Rabbi Max Heller:

When Rabbi Max Heller was considered to be the new rabbi for Temple Sinai in New Orleans, “One hundred male heads of household comes to discuss the candid of the young Max Heller” (Malone 1). It was a joyous day for Heller, and an important moment in Louisiana history.

Spell check would not pick it up, but there are two errors that lead the reader to think either 1) Her source was poorly edited, or 2) Elke is plagiarizing. A quick check, and it’s Elke. She has quoted sloppily. Depending on the penalties imposed by your instructor, this can hurt the grade given your paper

Check Your Quotes!

If your author is British and spells “color” as “colour,” then you must, too. Don’t let spell check change it for you. If your author uses a lot of poetic license, spelling words strangely, then you must, too, when you quote directly from him or her.

Direct quotes must be EXACT. You cannot add to direct quotes (without brackets or ellipses), and you cannot subtract from them.

There is NEVER a time that you can take information from a source and not quote it or offer a citation, unless it is common knowledge. When in doubt, quote the original.

There is never a time when you can take anything word for word, even common knowledge, and not cite it. NEVER.

 

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The Works Cited Page: Another Potential Area of Plagiarism

In our paper, the word “Walker” in the parenthetical citation corresponds to the word “Walker” in the works cited page.
That way, if the reader wants to find out where we got our information, the reader simply looks to the last page, sees the word “Walker” and finds out about our sources.

This won’t work, however, if we put Walker’s book under “A” for Anything We Love Can Be Saved.
Always list a book under the author’s last name.
To do anything else is plagiarism.

Books go under author’s last names--that is the rule.

Look under MLA and “works cited” in your handbook. You’ll see that there is a standard format. Also check the OWL Documentation page.

Works Cited is centered at the top of the page. Then there are directions for each kind of work you are citing--books, journals, magazines, even web pages and telephone interviews.

  • All of these go on alphabetical order on the works cited page.
  • Everything is double-spaced.

Look at the samples in your book

  • Every period, every comma, every capital letter has to be in its proper place. Only the words “University Press” can be abbreviated--and that by UP. Do not abbreviate the titles or author’s names.
  • Works Cited is centered
  • Works are listed alphabetically, left justified--all works, magazines, journals, etc.
  • Every thing is double spaced
  • Hanging indent is used--first lines of entries are not indented, all other lines of an entry are indented five spaces.
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Further Tips and Warnings:

When you collect data for your paper, write down all the information you need: title, author, date, page number, and other information.

Be very careful when writing quotations down and proofreading to make sure quotations are all correct.

It is never your professor’s job to catch your plagiarism before you turn your essay in.

If your professor asks you, “Where did you get this information? Be sure to check your quotes,” you will know that something looks strange--you’d better make sure everything is just right.

Sloppy quotes in the business world can lead to lawsuits--much worse than just a poor grade.

Sloppy quotes in the medical world can lead to incorrect dosages and death.

Sloppy quotes in the architectural world can lead to collapsed buildings and loss of property and life.

Quoting is a skill you’ll be using all throughout your college career. Getting it right now will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Original PowerPoint by Tamara Powell

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