Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress


A Hypertext Resource for Literature

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Plagiarism is taking a passage or passages from another person's discourse, either word for word or in general, and incorporating them as your own into written work you offer for credit. That does not mean that you are not allowed to use other people's ideas; in fact, good writing often uses the ideas and words of other writers extensively. This practice becomes a problem when you don't acknowledge your sources. To avoid plagiarizing, use the following techniques. For more specific information, refer to the Quotation and Citation section of Connections.

  1. Direct Quotation: If you use the exact words or a writer you consulted, you must put their words in quotation marks and tell your reader where the quotation came from. For this class, use MLA style as your citation format. If you have any questions about MLA style, let me know as soon as they arise.

  2. Indirect Quotation: When you summarize or paraphrase another writer, use phrases such as "According to . . . " or "As . . . argues" to tell your reader what you are doing.

  3. General Acknowledgment of Indebtedness: When your thinking has been influenced by a source in a broad way, but you do not have a specific place to acknowledge that influence, you need to let your reader know that with wording such as "Much of the following discussion is based on material found in . . . ." (For example, I used this technique to acknowledge a debt on an in-class undergrad exam, when I had no access to specific wording or page numbers.) In most cases, however, one of the first two techniques works better than this one to let your reader know exactly what influence the cited writer has had on your writing.

  4. List of Works Cited: This will allow you to list the specific sources you have used. We will discuss the format of the list later. Basically, plagiarism is the academic version of forgetting to thank someone who has been nice to you. The consequences, however, are more serious than those of most lapses in politeness. Consult the Student Handbook for the official College policy. If you have questions about the meaning of this statement, see me immediately.

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