To discuss plagiarism, I had each student find their own web article about a plagiarism case, so that we had multiple examples to discuss. My general default assumption is that people are not intentionally plagiarizing (side note: an example a student brought in of someone who clearly intentionally plagiarized led to my exclamation: I don’t understand that! How could someone think they would get away with that? Followed by my admission that I am likely not cut out for a life of crime). But there are a number of instances of unintentional plagiarism, and some things we as authors can do to best avoid it. I think the three issues we discussed that traditionally receive less time in online plagiarism modules or workshops on plagiarism are:
1. Consecutive citations in text. It’s not uncommon that when I run a paper through an online plagiarism tool, there will be instances where there are 3 or more citations at the end of a sentence that match another publication, even though the sentence itself does not. In most cases, it appears that the student read someone else’s lit review, and from a particular sentence/point that the authors made, used the author’s summary of past work on X, putting it in her own words, but citing the original sources from the author, rather than citing the paper the student actually read. Instead, authors should go back to the original sources themselves and only cite things they read themselves, and hopefully find their own new references on that topic rather than only pulling from someone else’s summary.
2. Failure to document original source in notes. Academics take notes all the time. We take notes when we listen to lectures/talks, when we read articles, when we read textbooks assigned to our students, and when we write our own lectures. The challenge is that if we don’t document for ourselves our original sources, we can forget where things came from, or even that our notes are not our own words/ideas, but instead are someone else’s. Students studying for comps, for instance, might cut and paste from an article into notes, but fail to document that the points are word-for-word from the original source. Instructors working on lecture notes may cut and paste text from an article into their notes without documenting it. The student returning to notes to write comps may then cut and paste into the comps document without realizing it wasn’t her own words. The instructor may, years later, write a textbook based on notes from a course and forget that the notes were not original material.
Several years ago I started obsessively documenting my notes. When I’m putting presenter notes into my PowerPoint slides, I now try to have the source of any material I have. If I cut and paste from an article because I plan to paraphrase it in class, I make sure to paste it into my notes in quotes so I know I didn’t put it in my own words. These steps help 3-years-from-now Eva know which are not my original ideas, and whose ideas/words they really are.
3. Copying images. I think many academics are guilty of this issue. We teach students that they can’t take other people’s words, but then we grab photos or other images from web sites and plop them into our slides without attributing them. If you put an image into a presentation, make sure it’s not protected by copyright, and make sure to provide an attribution of the source. I generally paste in the web address that the image came from to be clear of the source. Note that with google image searches, you can choose to filter by specific usage rights, so that you only use images that are labeled for reuse.
“The post Plagiarism first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on February 21, 2015.”