Thoughts on Plagiarism by Bri Taormina

posted Feb 26, 2018, 9:39 AM by Writing Center
College is hard. College is especially hard when you have other responsibilities like holding a job, running a household, or raising kids. It is challenging when you are instructed in a language other than the one you grew up learning, feel unwelcome in the community, or if you feel underprepared by your high school education.

 It becomes easy to fall victim to the limitless resources technology offers. We spend so much time scrolling through information on the internet, we begin to forget what we read, and mistake it for our own voice. Maybe we are late on an assignment, and rush to find something to write about, similar to me writing this blog post right now. How easy would it be to just find a good argument/assessment/essay online and change it a bit to fit our needs? It isn’t plagiarism if I rewrite it in my own words… is it?

 College is difficult, and students often resort to plagiarism after procrastinating or failing to manage their time wisely. Many times the student doesn’t even know they are doing it.  Yes, obviously, many students realize if they lift a passage from someone else, it is plagiarism. We slap some quotes around these words, cite it. Although sometimes we forget that paraphrasing and summarizing need that citation too. When in doubt, cite something, even if just to cover your own butt.

 It isn’t a bad thing to borrow someone else’s words, but it is important to give them credit. Think of it this way. You find this perfect article online, and you want to use it in your paper on a relevant political debate happening right now. It is exactly what you were looking for to back up your argument. You use it, and you love how it turns out. Three weeks later, you learn they got their facts wrong. If you haven’t cited this, not only have you lifted someone else’s words, but you’ve also used faulty information. Citing this quote in the first place would avoid the plagiarism completely, and put their false information back on them.

 On a different note, but also along this same line of thinking, if you are quoting something that is quoting something else (for instance a secondary source quoting a primary source), quote the actual text you are reading. If you are quoting an academic source, and within that quote, it quotes Frankenstein, you quote the academic source, not Frankenstein. I know quotes within quotes are ugly, but if the academic source quotes Frankenstein wrong, that is on them, not on you.

 When you’re done writing, quoting, and citing, bring it to the Writing Center for some feedback before submission. A consultant can look over it, provide some general comments, and you can make revisions based on what they suggest. While consultants are not plagiarism checkers, and it is not their responsibility to recognize that the words you used are not your own, they can certainly help you develop the skills to better cite sources correctly.

 Yes, college is hard, but it is ultimately the time that you’re meant to find your own voice, not someone else’s.