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VALE - Virtual Academic Library Environment
Library Instruction and Information Literacy:
Don't Plagiarize! Document Your Research

Avoiding Plagiarism Is As Easy As One -- Two -- Three

1. Give yourself time

Take enough time to explore your own ideas, write them down, and gather material to support your arguments. Remember that retrieving and evaluating materials, ordering items from other libraries, writing a first draft, and polishing your work all take time. If there were such a thing as an instant paper, it would not have very much value as a brain exercise. So schedule in your lead time to avoid panic at the last minute.

2. Organize your research, note-taking and writing

  • Make separate folders in your word processor or email account for each paper or project.
  • Keep all your downloads, output from periodical indexes and databases, lists of sources, electronic documents, and notes you write for each project together in the same folder (Miller 419).
  • For your own protection, keep your searches, working bibliographies, note files, and versions of the paper until you receive your final grade for the course.
  • Take notes in a way that automatically avoids plagiarism. All you have to do is
          a) Key every one of your notes to a source and page number; and
          b) Differentiate clearly between the material you have quoted and your own words as you take notes.

Here is an example of a bibliography entry using a periodical article in MLA format:

Miller, Kristin. "Developing Good Research Habits: Encourage Students to Create a Working Bibliography Online." College & Research Libraries News. 61 (2000): 418-20.

Your notes page might look like this:

Miller, 2000 [source]

p. 419 "Using e-mail to collect citations allows the researcher to reformat them into a working bibliography on the computer and operating system that will be used to do the majority of the word processing." [Quotation or fact, or even paraphrase and exact page number]

My note: You should save your electronic searches in your email, even if you print them out somewhere for convenience. [These are your own words and thoughts about what you have read. Invent your own code if you wish, but be sure to label your own writing.]

A "working bibliography" is a list of the sources you found that you believe are most likely to give you the information you need. As you use the items, you can type in comments about each. Or, you can turn your working bibliography into your notes page. With electronic documents, all of these variations are possible.

Here is another example of a bibliography entry for a book in MLA style. (Your required format may vary.)

McGee-Cooper, Ann. Time Management for Unmanageable People. Dallas, Texas: Ann McGee-Cooper and Associates, 1983.

Here is an example of a note entry for the same book:

McGee-Cooper. Time

Page 7.9 "By studying the self-talk of winners, people who not only achieve consistently at high levels but who enjoy high personal esteem, we learn that they consistently focus on the positive. We lose a great deal of energy by needlessly feeling guilty. It doesn't help to feel bad about a mistake. It only helps to learn from the mistake."

My note: According to McGee-Cooper, high achievers and successful people practice positive self-talk.

3. Document what you use

  • Supply footnotes for facts or opinions gathered from others. If you have coded your notes to the source and page, this kind of documentation should be very straightforward.
  • Here is an example of a sentence with a footnote in MLA style, based upon the note taken above:
  • According to Ann McGee-Cooper, a management consultant who advocates whole-brain thinking and the deliberate use of "joy breaks" to improve personal productivity, high achievers and successful people practice positive self-talk (McGee-Cooper 7.9).
  • Use a recognized citation method (MLA or APA, for example) to construct your footnotes, end notes, lists of works cited, references, and bibliographies.
    Footnote paraphrases, facts, and ideas as well as exact quotes -- it's all somebody else's unless it is a) common knowledge or b) yours alone. For more information on style manuals and citing both print and electronic resources, go to http://newarkwww.rutgers.edu/guides/cite.htm.
  • Using references so that they give credit without interrupting the flow of your writing is an art, and the accepted methods vary a bit from discipline to discipline. For pointers, look at the MLA Style Manual (especially pages 230-234) or Reader-Friendly Reports by Professor Carter Daniel (122-130).
  • There is no shame in acknowledging the work of others. Scholars do this routinely. The shame is in not acknowledging the work of others.
  • Do your own work. In the end, you are the one who benefits most.
  • List of Works Cited
    • Daniel, Carter A. Reader-Friendly Reports: A Manual Prepared for Students at the Rutgers Faculty of Management. 10th ed. Carter A Daniel, 2001. See especially Chapter 12 on footnotes (122-33). [Dana Ref Desk #273A]<
    • Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. 2nd ed. NY: The Modern Language Association of America, 1998. See especially Chapter 6 on documenting the list of works cited (149-229) and Chapter 7 on documenting sources in the text (230-254). [Dana Ref Desk #276, PN 147.G444 1998]
    • McGee-Cooper, Ann. Time Management for Unmanageable People. Dallas, Texas: Ann McGee-Cooper and Associates, 1983.
    • Miller, Kristin. "Developing Good Research Habits: Encourage Students to Create a Working Bibliography Online." College & Research Libraries News. 61 (2000): 418-20.
Last updated February 3, 2005
 
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