On this page you will find information about plagiarism, including what it is and how to avoid it. There are examples for using quotations as well as paraphrasing. Rules against plagiarism are very important to academic work as they protect the ownership of ideas, and the penalties against plagiarism are very serious.
Briefly, plagiarism is the use of others' ideas and expressions as if they were your own.
In writing essays for the Discipline of English you will undoubtedly want to make use of work which other people have produced and which you find especially convincing or particularly relevant to the assigned question. In many cases you will be directly asked to research what other people have written about a text or set of ideas and to make use of that work in your essays. When you do so you must clearly indicate which ideas were drawn from other people, and precisely where they came from.
You must indicate that your essay is using or has been influenced by someone else's work by correctly referencing or citing that work, showing the person marking your essay why how and why you are using that other person's work. In the referencing guide you will find details about how to reference, but before you go there, make sure you fully understand the discussion of plagiarism here.
Under no circumstances will plagiarism be excused or condoned in the Discipline of English. It is intellectual theft, and ignorance is no excuse.
Work in which plagiarism is detected will be penalised, and a further offence will be dealt with severely.
Here are two different accounts of plagiarism from the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers and Colin Norman's Writing Essays: A Short Guide. These are followed by some notes on quotation and paraphrasing.
From Colin Norman, Writing essays: A Short Guide:
By no stretch of the imagination is plagiarism merely a form of "borrowing" - when does the plagiarist ever return what has been taken? Margot Northey's observations are direct and to the point: "plagiarism is a form of stealing: as with other offences against the law, ignorance is no excuse" (12).
Here is a specific list of materials which must be acknowledged either in your text or in the appropriate endnote:
- Direct quotation of someone else's words: Acknowledge quotations long and short, including apt turns of phrase. Always place a direct quotation within quotation marks, and acknowledge the source.
- Paraphrases of someone else's words: a good essay will often present derived material, not as direct quotation, but in your own words. The source of the paraphrase must nonetheless be acknowledged scrupulously.
- Facts and information derived from someone else: Acknowledge any material that is less than obviously familiar, or that is in some degree conjectural or open to interpretation.
- Ideas derived from someone else: Acknowledge not only those ideas which the original source states plainly or emphatically, but also someone else's broad line of argument, or specific method of leading towards a particular conclusion.
Matters of common knowledge (the appropriate circumference of the earth, or the fact that Shakespeare was associated with the Globe Theatre) need not be acknowledged, and the same goes for familiar proverbs or sayings (phrases from the Bible, for example.)
Plagiarism may arise inadvertently from taking careless notes. As you summarize a source, carefully distinguish between direct quotation, paraphrases, and original ideas which may occur to you in the process of reading and thinking. Note also that merely including a source in the list of works cited does not in itself constitute acknowledgement of derived materials. Acknowledgements must be made at appropriate junctures in your text, or in endnotes.
- Use quotation marks to indicate your direct use of other people's work and of set texts.
- Use 'single' quotation marks to indicate material directly used in the text, and "double" quotations marks to indicate quotation marks used in that original material.
- Long quotations should be indented to separate them from your text and in the case of indented quotations you should omit the quotation marks.
- Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice opens in an ironic voice: 'It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife' (1).
- Unlike Elizabeth, Darcy readily acknowledges the failings of his friends, questioning Bingley's self-deprecation: '"Nothing is more deceitful," said Darcy, "than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast"' (Austen 41).
- Although the narrative of Pride and Prejudice has been building up to the moment when Elizabeth and Darcy which exchange declarations of love, this exchange is finally with-held from the reader.
Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety for his situation, now forced herself to speak, and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. (Austen 325)
Punctuation should come after the parenthetical reference if it is not itself a complete sentence.
You should provide a reference for each point in your essay which is drawn from or influenced by something you have read (or seen or heard). Make sure you have read the advice on plagiarism.
When you paraphrase rather than quote from a source you use the same referencing style as if you had quoted the text.
Example comparing a paraphrase and a quotation:
Popular culture is usually understood to describe the range of things which are thought to be consumed or enjoyed by the masses (Hall 459).
Stuart Hall argues that the 'most common-sense meaning' of popular culture is 'the "market" or commercial definition of the term', which describes a range of things thought to be consumed or enjoyed by 'masses of people' (459).