Syllabus | Academic Integrity | Tips on Paper | Movie Notes

PLAGIARISM

Plagiarism is the use of facts, opinions, and language taken from another writer without acknowledgment. In its most sordid form, plagiarism is outright theft or cheating: a person has another person write the paper or simply steals a magazine article or section of a book and pretends to have produced a piece of original writing. Far more common is plagiarism in dribs and drabs: a sentence here and there, a paragraph here and there. Unfortunately, small-time theft is still theft, and small-time plagiarism is still plagiarism. For your own safety and self-respect, remember the following rules -- not guidelines, rules:

  1. The language in your paper must either be your own or a direct quote from the original source.
  2. Changing a few words or phrases from another writer's work is not enough to make the writing "your own." Remember Rule I. The writing is either your own or the other person's; there are no in-betweens.
  3. Footnotes acknowledge that the fact or opinion expressed comes from another writer. If the language comes from another writer, quotation marks are necessary in addition to a footnote.
Now for a detailed example.

ORIGINAL PASSAGE

In 1925 Dreiser produced his masterpiece, the massively impressive An American Tragedy. By this time -- thanks largely to the tireless propagandizing on his behalf by the influential maverick critic H. L. Mencken and by others concerned with a realistic approach to the problems of American life -- Dreiser's fame had become secure. He was seen as the most powerful and effective destroyer of the genteel tradition that had dominated popular American fiction in the post-Civil War period, spreading its soft blanket of provincial, sentimental romance over the often ugly realities of life in modern, industrialized, urban America. Certainly there was nothing genteel about Dreiser, either as man or novelist. He was the supreme poet of the squalid, a man who felt the terror, the pity, and the beauty underlying the American dream. With an eye at once ruthless and compassionate, he saw the tragedy inherent in the American success ethic; the soft underbelly, as it were, of the Horatio Alger rags-to-riches myth so appealing to the optimistic American imagination [Richard Freedman, The Novel (New York: Newsweek Books, 1975), pp. 104-105].


STUDENT VERSION COMMENT
There was nothing genteel about Dreiser, either as man or novelist. He was the supreme poet of the squalid, a man who felt the terror, the pity, and the beauty underlying the American dream. Obvious plagiarism: word-for-word repetition without acknowledgment.
There was nothing genteel about Dreiser, either as man or novelist. He was the supreme poet of the squalid, a man who felt the terror, the pity, and the beauty underlying the American dream'.
'Richard Freedman, The Novel (New York: Newsweek Books, 1975), p. 104.
Still plagiarism. The footnote alone does not help. The language is the original author's, and only quotation marks around the whole passage plus a footnote would be correct.
Nothing was genteel about Dreiser as a man or as a novelist. He was the poet of the squalid and felt that terror, pity, and beauty lurked under the American dream. Still plagiarism. A few words have been changed or omitted, but by no strench of the imagination is the student writer using his own language.
"Nothing was genteel about Dreiser as a man or as a novelist. He was the poet of the squalid and felt that terror, pity, and beauty lurked under the American dream."'
'Richard Freedman, The Novel (New York: Newsweek Books, 1975), p. 104.
Not quite plagiarism, but incorrect and inaccurate. Quotation marks indicate exact repetition of what was originally written. The student writer, however, has changed some of the original and is not entitled to use quotation marks.
"Certainly there was nothing genteel about Drciser, either as man or novelist. He was the supreme poet of the squalid, a man who felt the terror, the pity, and the beauty underlying the American dream."'
'Richard Freedman, The Novel (New York: Newsweek Books, 1975), p. 104.
Correct. The quotation marks acknowledge the words of the original writer. The footnote is also needed, of course, to give the reader specific information about the source of the quote.
By 1925 Dreiser's reputation was firmly established. The reading public viewed Dreiser as one of the main contributors to the downfalrof the "genteel tradition" in American literature. Dreiscr, "the supreme poet of the squalid," looked beneath the bright surface of American life and values and described the frightening and tragic elements, the "ugly realities," so often overlooked by other writers.'
'Richard Freedman, The Novel (New York: Newsweek Books, 1975), pp. 104-105.
Correct. The student writer uses his own words to summarize most of the original passage. The footnote shows that the ideas expressed come from the original writer, not from the student. The few phrases kept from the original passage are carefully enclosed in quotation marks.