Using another person's words or ideas is plagiarism, and, not only is it
unethical, it's illegal. Newspapers and magazines fire authors if they are
caught plagiarizing; colleges expel students if they are caught. Most
universities have software that detects plagiarism and professors require
students to submit their papers electronically in order to detect
plagiarism. Teachers have a "sixth sense" about detecting plagiarism,
so if you commit this crime, you will probably get caught.
It's important to know what it means to plagiarize and then learn how to
avoid doing it.
Never use someone else's exact words in your own paper, and it goes without
saying that you should never copy and paste information into your own
document. It is okay to discuss someone else's ideas as long as they are
not presented as your own original thoughts. Give credit to the
original author or creator. This is easily done by citing the source and
providing an in-text citation for the author of the material. Remember: If you
have any doubt about what to do, cite your source.
When do you not have to cite information?
Citations are not needed when the information is commonly known or
recognized by other experts. Examples of this include biographical
information (birthdays, occupations, etc.) and major contributions to
society (awards, medals, etc.). If you see information over and over on multiple sites or in
multiple sources, it is not necessary to cite that information. However, if you
have a doubt, go ahead and cite the source.
Mixing Concrete Details and Commentary
Good writing is a mixture of the author's voice and solid research. Remember
that it's your responsibility to write the paper with thoughtful commentary
(from your head). The research you're including is the concrete details that
you are using to reinforce and support what the paper is saying. Good
writers use two quotes or paraphrases per paragraph -- and no more. If there
are more than three quotes, you are probably not including enough voice.
It is true that your paper needs the support of professionals and
experts in order to give your own writing the credibility it needs to
strengthen or argue the position of the thesis. In order to successfully
prove your thesis, each paragraph will need to be reinforced with cited
Concrete Details - Information gathered from reliable sources through
careful research. The best concrete details support your thesis and help
Commentary - These sentences come from you and make the connection between
the concrete details and the thesis. In formal research papers like the
Graduation Project paper, the commentary will not use personal pronouns (I,
me, you, etc.).
Here's a hand-out with more information and an activity for you to practice
Formal essays should not include the second person pronoun (you). If you
struggle with that particular problem, this practice may help you: