What is Plagiarism?

Why is it so important that my work not be plagiarized?  

In academia, scholars take pride in their ideas and integrity.  Part of the college learning experience is exposing one's self to others' ideas and beginning to form one's own ideas.  Frequently, the passage of ideas takes place in writing, and students must write research papers that help them discover the ideas that are out there and to assist in the formation of theirr own ideas.   Students must preserve their own integrity while respecting the integrity of those scholars who have gone before them.  What is integrity?
integrity inte.gri/ssp/icons/breve.gif ti. [ad. L. integrita/ssp/icons/macr.gif s wholeness, entireness, completeness, integrity, chastity, purity, f. integer, integr- whole, integer. Perh. in part a. Fr. integrité (c1420 in Hatz.-Darm.). ]

1. The condition of having no part or element taken away or wanting; undivided or unbroken state; material wholeness, completeness, entirety.

b. Something undivided; an integral whole.

2. The condition of not being marred or violated; unimpaired or uncorrupted condition; original perfect state; soundness.

Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition.  London:  OUP, 1989.
Simply stated, plagiarism is taking someone else's work and passing it off as your own.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines plagiarism as:
plagiarism ple/ssp/icons/macr.gif i.d/ssp/icons/yogh.gif ia/ssp/icons/breve.gif riz'm. [f. as plagiary + -ism. ]

1. The action or practice of plagiarizing; the wrongful appropriation or purloining, and publication as one's own, of the ideas, or the expression of the ideas (literary, artistic, musical, mechanical, etc.) of another.

2. A purloined idea, design, passage, or work.

purloin p/ssp/icons/ipa313.gif /ssp/icons/ipa151.gif loi.n, v. Forms: 5-6 perloyn(e, 5-7 purloyn(e, (5 pourloigne), 7 purloine, 6- purloin. [a. AFr. purloigner = OFr. porloigner, -lognier, -lunier, purloigner, -luignier, -luinier, later pourloign(i)er, -longnier, f. por-, pur-:-L. pro/ssp/icons/macr.gif - + loing, loin:-L. longe far; hence, `to put far off or far away, to put away, do away with'. The sense `make away with, steal' appears to be of English development. The OFr. por- purloigner tended to be confused in use with porlongier, and the learned prolonger, representatives of L. pro/ssp/icons/macr.gif longare to prolong. In Eng. prolong is rarely found in the sense `purloin', but the obs. proloyn v. combined the senses of both verbs. ]

1. trans. To put far away; to remove; to put away; to do away with; make of none effect. Obs.

b. To put out of the way, conceal. Obs.

2. To make away with, misappropriate, or take dishonestly; to steal, esp. under circumstances which involve a breach of trust; to pilfer, filch.

b. absol. or intr. To commit petty theft.

c. trans. To steal from, to rob (a person). Obs. rare.

Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition.  London:  OUP, 1989.

How can I avoid plagiarism?

The best way to avoid plagiarism or unacceptable paraphrasing is to read the material, close the book, and restate the information in your own words. Direct quotes should be used when there are statistics or other facts that must be included in your paper.  Example:
 "Median household income in 2000 held steady at the all-time high level reached in 1999, at $42,100 (that is, half of all households had incomes above $42,100 and half below)."  http://www.census.gov/hhes/income/income00/prs01asc.html

Direct quotes might also be used when the author's words cannot be paraphrased without losing the essence of the meaning.  Here is an example (from one of my own papers) of a direct quote and an acceptable paraphrase.  The direct quote is in red; the paraphrase is in green.

In The Grail Legend, Emma Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz state that
the fascination of myths and fairy tales lies precisely in the fact that they depict basic forms of human experience.  For this very reason the same motifs are found the world over, not only as a result of migration, but also because the human psyche which produces them is everywhere the same. (37)
This statement, paired with Campbell's contention that myths reveal the innermost difficulties and triumphs of man, proves that the reason myths are important in literature is that they are literature.  There is no novel, poem, or play that is not dependent in some way on myth as defined by Campbell and Jung and von Franz.  Without myth, there would be no tales to tell.  

Here is the material from which the Campbell paraphrase was taken:  

Joseph Campbell described myths, which he also calls legends, as "bits of information from ancient times, which have to do with the themes that have supported human life, built civilizations, and informed religions over the millennia, have to do with deep inner problems, inner mysteries, inner thresholds of passage" (Power Of Myth 2).

Here is a discussion of plagiarism and paraphrasing from the University of Indiana.  


Last updated 1/7/03