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Avoiding Plagiarism FAQ - LSC-CyFair

Based on information received from the recent LSC-CyFair Branch Library academic integrity survey in fall 2017, librarian-led instruction sessions, and professor input, LSC-CyFair English Professor Britney Jeffrey and Reference Librarian Monica Norem answer popular student questions on plagiarism.


Click on any question below to view the answer.

Anti-Plagiarism Basics

What are proven strategies that help a student prevent plagiarism?

  • Work alone on projects, tests, etc. unless approval given to collaborate
  • Credit authors/groups if you use their materials in an assignment.
  • Keep copies of your work and sources used.
  • Ask your professor for clarification on whether an action would be considered plagiarism.

What if I use an idea in my project that someone else already put in their paper? It will look like I am plagiarizing them.

Professors using Turnitin.com receive an originality report that they review before identifying a paper as plagiarized. They can set limits on small matches of text to eliminate common phrases being marked as plagiarized (Turnitin 56). If a professor notifies a student about plagiarized content in a project, there should be a discussion about what content originated with the student vs. an outside source. If needed, the academic appeals process at http://www.lonestar.edu/academic-appeal can be used.

Why is it unacceptable to reuse a paper for another class? It is my own work.

Reusing a paper as is without any changes is problematic, given the specific requirements of most assignments. Also, it is a display of respect for your professor to recycle a paper from another course. Creating a new paper for a course assignment is a chance to enhance your communication skills that many employers value. If you have an existing research paper topic that you think would work for another course, ask your professor if you can revise and update the previous paper to meet the needs of the new assignment (MLA 59).

If I put an idea in my own words, why do I need to cite it?

If an idea comes from a source you used for information, it remains their idea even if you rework the wording. So you need to give credit to that original author of the idea.

How much does a sentence need to be altered so that it is not plagiarism?

If you paraphrase a sentence, you need to reword most of the sentence and change the structure of the sentence to avoid plagiarism, keeping the original author’s idea intact. Remember, you still need to cite the source.

Citation Styles and Formatting

What citation styles are used in different types of courses?

English, art, and humanities favor MLA, although other disciplines may use it because it is the most familiar citation style. Psychology, sociology, and health professions use APA most frequently. Chicago-style (CMOS/CMS) can be found in research papers for history and religion. The "Turabian" guide is associated with CMOS/CMS and includes research paper format details for undergraduates. Other types of citation styles exist, also (Harris). Check with each professor for their preferred citation style unless it is listed in assignments or the syllabus.

Are there shortcuts to formatting a research paper in MLA, APA, and Chicago style?

The library offers MLA and APA paper formatting help at http://tinyurl.com/cyfairhelp. CMOS/CMS paper formatting for notes/bibliography style is available at https://tinyurl.com/CMOSTurabian8th.

Paraphrasing and Summarizing Another Author’s Ideas

Is there a maximum amount of direct quotes I can put in a paper?

A research assignment’s usual aim is to assess a student’s ability to share his/her unique ideas with support from reliable and pertinent sources. Individual professors may limit the number of direct quotes you can use in assignments, but your goal is to display your understanding of ideas through your words primarily, supported with summaries, paraphrases, and to a lesser extent, quotations at opportune points in your writing. For maximum effect, quotations can be used to express unique and powerful ideas that cannot or should not be written in any other way. But you can use quotations inside paraphrases and summaries as well. Proper names and organizations do not need quotations around them as they are unique and have no synonym (Kirszner and Mandell 268).

Why do professors focus so much on paraphrasing? Is there an easy way to paraphrase?

Professors want you to demonstrate your understanding of source material. Paraphrasing is an excellent chance to read, analyze, comprehend, and reword information, based on your grasp of a source’s content. Find instructions for writing a paraphrase at http://tinyurl.com/cyfairpara.

What is the difference between paraphrase and summary?

A paraphrase seeks to preserve the essence of an idea and its details in about the same length as the original information, but in a different order with mostly different words. A summary condenses original information to only the main idea from a longer to shorter length and with different wording (“Summary”). Find examples of a paraphrase and summary at http://tinyurl.com/cyfairpara.

Citation Creation

Why do I need to learn how to cite manually when I can use a citation website or get automatic citations from a library database?

Citations created by databases or citation creators are not 100% correct in most cases and students must be able to identify what is missing or incorrect in a generated citation. So reviewing the library guides at http://tinyurl.com/cyfairhelp will allow you to check the citations for accuracy to help you get a better grade on your assignment.

Why are there different citation styles? Why do we have to learn them?

Different disciplines focus on the position of citation elements based on type of research. APA favors the authors and currency of research in scholarly journals primarily, MLA is more interested in a variety of research and specific analysis by different authors, and CMOS/CMS stresses content above citation using footnotes instead of in-text citations (“Why”). In the workplace, you will find companies also have varying style guides and expectations for documentation. Therefore, it is beneficial to learn, understand, and practice similar nuances now.

What is the most accurate citation creator on the web?

Most of them get a passing grade for being close to correct, while adding other elements that are not necessary. Some allow you to simply enter a URL for a web page and the citation generator pulls information from the page and creates a citation for you. Other types of resources require you to identify citation elements and enter them into the spaces provided. So some of the accuracy depends on what you enter or leave blank. We like KnightCite because it seems to know some of the unique aspects of citation styles and reformats citations to fit those aspects, yet it is not perfect, so you still have to check the citation against library guides at http://tinyurl.com/cyfairhelp.

Is it sufficient to get close to a correct citation or must it be perfect?

A good faith effort to cite sources correctly is important for your success in college. It is helpful to review citations with the library guides at http://tinyurl.com/cyfairhelp before you submit your research project and citations. Ask your professor for information on how they grade citations, so you know how much is deducted for incorrect citations.

Do I have to cite every time I take something from a source every time in my paper?

Yes, you need to give credit to the original source you used by citing it in the body of your project every time it is referenced accompanied by one detailed listing for the source in your works cited, references, or bibliography.

Why do professors put such an emphasis on citation?

Professors want you to learn the rules for crediting others while adding your own ideas. You need to separate your thoughts from other authors and citation is the method, so you can be assessed on your understanding of valid support for your ideas while sharing your own ideas. Also, citation is part of the college’s academic integrity policy at http://www.lonestar.edu/instructional-resources.

If I put an idea in my own words, why do I need to cite it?

If an idea comes from a source you used for information, it remains their idea even if you rework the wording. So you need to give credit to that original author of the idea.

What is “common knowledge” that I do not need to cite?

Facts that are published in most popular reference tools like encyclopedias, almanacs, and atlases may be considered common knowledge if you believe your audience knows them. So if you were speaking to a group of students in Texas, most of them should know that the large body of water that forms one of our borders is the Gulf of Mexico. You would not need to cite that fact. When in doubt about your audience’s common knowledge, go ahead and cite the fact (Axelrod and Cooper 428).

 

Works Cited

Axelrod, Rise B., and Charles R. Cooper. The Concise St. Martin’s Guide to Writing. 7th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015.

Harris, Jennifer. “FAQ: What Citation Style Should I Use?” Shapiro Library, Southern New Hampshire U, 25 Aug. 2017, libanswers.snhu.edu/faq/69000.

Kirszner, Laurie G., and Stephen R. Mandell. The Holt Handbook, 6th ed., Thomson/Heinle, 2002.

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2009.

“Summary and Paraphrase.” Anoka-Ramsey Community College, webs.anokaramsey.edu/stankey/Writing/MLA_SPQ/SummPara.htm.

Turnitin Instructor User Manual. Turnitin, turnitin.com/static/resources/documentation/turnitin/training/Instructor_Originality_Report_Chapter_2.pdf.

“Why Are There Different Citation Styles?” Yale Center for Teaching and Learning, ctl.yale.edu/writing/using-sources/why-are-there-different-citation-styles.