Plagiarized Term Paper
A plagiarized term paper is one that is falsely represented as a student's work when it should in fact be credited to another writer. There are varying degrees of plagiarism, and thus several different types of plagiarized term papers. All should be avoided, as plagiarism is taken extremely seriously by all instructors and institutions.
Some students mistakenly believe that a plagiarized term paper is one that a student has copied in total from another writer or source. Though this is indeed a form of a plagiarized term paper, it is more likely that a plagiarized term paper will be only partially copied or, in many cases, unintentionally plagiarized. A plagiarized term paper is any project that has even one sentence that is intentionally or mistakenly represented as the writer's own when in fact it is not.
Some students may wonder how one can unintentionally plagiarize. In fact, unintentional plagiarism is probably the most common form of plagiarism because many learners who would never copy another person's work and submit it as their own are still unaware of how to properly give credit to outside authors and sources. Even if it is unintentional, however, plagiarism is plagiarism, and accidental plagiarism can carry the same penalties as intentional plagiarism.
In order to avoid accidentally writing plagiarized term papers, students need to learn how to properly cite the sources they incorporate in their texts. Below are a few guidelines.
Any fact, opinion, or idea that is not the student's own, original thought and is not common knowledge needs to be cited. Common knowledge can be divided into two different branches. The first branch is anything that most people in a specific culture know by virtue of belonging to that culture. For instance, most Americans know that the first president of the United States was George Washington. This is not something that needs to be cited. The other branch of common knowledge depends on the discipline in which the article is being written. For instance, if a student is writing a paper on William Shakespeare and writes in his assignment that Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, that student would not need to cite this, because most people who have studied Shakespeare know where he was born. If unsure about what is and is not common knowledge in a specific course, a student should check with his or her instructor.
If a fact, opinion, or idea is determined not to be common knowledge, the student must find a source that asserts that fact, opinion, or idea and then cite from where that source came. There are two ways of incorporating sources into texts. The first is to quote. This means replicating exactly the way the fact, opinion, or idea was presented in the text and enclosing it in quotation marks. For instance, the exact passage "Cats have more advanced gray matter in their brains than dogs do," if taken from another source, is a quotation of that source.
The second way of incorporating others' ideas into papers is to paraphrase. To paraphrase is to assimilate the information presented in the source into one's own words and rewrite it. For instance, a paraphrase of the quoted sentence above on cat brains may be as follows: "The gray matter of a cat brain is more developed than the gray matter of a dog brain." Paraphrasing is not the same as rearranging the sentences the source writer used. In fact, when paraphrasing, one should avoid using the same words as the source writer with the exception of specific terminology.
Sometimes plagiarized term papers include quotations and paraphrases, but fail to insert citations. A citation is an indication of the author of the quote or paraphrase. Some citations will also include a page number or a year of publication for the work. The citation will sometimes be included in the sentence itself. Other times, it will be enclosed in a footnote or in parentheses following the sentence. In a citation included within the text of a sentence, the author's name is mentioned in the sentence in which the quote or paraphrase appears, like this: "Smith asserts that all cats are smarter than dogs, claiming that ‘cats have more advanced gray matter in their brains.'" Here, the author (Smith) is mentioned in the sentence; therefore, the student only needs to include the page number and perhaps the year of publication, if his or her instructor wishes, in the parenthetical note or footnote. If, however, Smith were not mentioned, and the sentence read like this: "Indeed, it has been asserted that cats have more advanced gray matter in their brains,'" then the footnote or parenthetical note would need to contain both the author and page number.
Avoiding a plagiarized term paper requires learning these rules of proper citation and following them exactly. If a student has more particular questions about citations and plagiarism or is unsure whether or not she is plagiarizing, he/she should consult his/her instructor for more guidance.
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