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Posted on April 22nd, 2015, by

To avoid plagiarism, you should

Never use someone else’s ideas without acknowledging the source.
Never paraphrase someone else’s argument as your own. Never present someone else’s line of thinking in the development of an idea as if it were your own. Never turn in an entire paper or a major part of it developed exactly as someone else’s line of thinking. Never arrange your ideas exactly as someone else did-even though you acknowledge the source(s) in parentheses.
You present original ideas in an original way. You give credit for any research that is not your own.
Ways to avoid plagiarism include always documenting quotations, opinions, and paraphrases and recognizing the difference between fact and common knowledge.

You must always set off direct quotes with quotation marks and give credit to your original source. It is considered plagiarism if you copy a part of the quotation without using quotation marks-even if you give credit.

Example
Not Plagiarism
In a famous essay on the naturalists, Malcolm Cowley noted, “Naturalism has been defined in two words as pessimistic determinism and the definition is true as far as it goes. The naturalists were all determinists in that they believed in the omnipotence of abstract forces.” (Becker 56)

Plagiarism
Malcolm Cowley defined Naturalism as “pessimistic determinism” and the definition is true as far as it goes. The naturalists were all determinists in that they believed in the omnipotence of abstract forces. (Becker 56)

You must also document the way an author constructs an argument or a line of thinking. In addition, it is considered plagiarism if you try to fob off someone else’s opinions as your own.

Examples
Original Source
Probably the most influential novel of the era was UncleTom’s Cabin (1852). More polemic than literature, Uncle Tom’s Cabin nonetheless provided the North and South with the symbols and arguments they needed to go to war (Levin 125)

Plagiarism
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852, was likely the most important novel of the pre-Civil War era. Even though the book was more of a debate than a novel, it nevertheless gave the Confederate and Union sides the push they needed to start the Civil War.

Not Plagiarism
As Harold Levin argues in his book Roots of the Civil War, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852, provided America with the impetus it need to plunge into the Civil War. Likely the most important novel of the era, UncleTom’s Cabin cannot be regarded as “literature”-it is too strident for that. Nonetheless, its influence cannot be denied. (125) DOCUMENT PARAPHRASES
The same holds true for paraphrases. It is not enough just to change a few words. Neither is it enough to rearrange a few sentences. Both practices can result in plagiarism. Study these examples:

Examples
Original Source
William Dean Howells (1837-1920) was the most important literary figure in his time. In addition to championing many American writers such as Edith Wharton and Emily Dickinson, Howells promoted Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen, Emile Zola, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy. (Goldsmith 98)

Plagiarism
William Dean Howells was the top literary person in his time. In addition to advancing the careers of American writers like Edith Wharton and Emily Dickinson, Howells championed the writing of non-Americans such as Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen, Emile Zola, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy.

Not Plagiarism
William Dean Howells was the single most significant editor of his day. Howells helped the careers of Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen, Emile Zola, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy as well as those of Edith Wharton and Emily Dickinson. (Goldsmith 98)
UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FACTS VS. COMMON KNOWLEDGE

By now you’re probably thinking that you have to document every single word in your research paper””or pretty close! Not really. You have to document another person’s words, ideas, or argument, and everything that is not common knowledge.
It’s not difficult to document quotations, opinions, and paraphrases, but differentiating between facts and common knowledge can be tricky. “Common knowledge” is defined as the information an educated person is expected to know. People are expected to know general facts about many categories of common knowledge, including the ones listed below:

art
geography language music literature
science history films
social studies
cultural facts
computer science
mathematics

How can you tell if something is common knowledge? If the fact is presented in several sources, odds are good that your readers are expected to know it. This means that you do not have to document it.

Examples of Common Knowledge
The Civil War started in 1861 and ended in 1865.
Abraham Lincoln was the president during the Civil War.
He was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.
Andrew Johnson became the new president.
In the following instance, however, the fact is not common knowledge and so has to be documented:

Examples of Facts Needing Documentation
Original Source
By the time the last canon thundered across the Shenandoah Valley at Antietam, the battlefield echoed with the screams of 20,000 Union and Confederate wounded soldiers. (Harris 415)
Plagiarism
When the last canon roared at Antietam, 20,000 Union and Confederate wounded soldiers were left wounded across the Shenandoah Valley. They were yelling in excruciating pain.
Not Plagiarism
Antietam was one of the most devastating battles of the Civil War. By its conclusion, 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were wounded. (Harris 415)
In the following two chapters, you’ll learn how to use internal documentation and footnotes/endnotes to document your sources.

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