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At what point does the use of previously published material cross the line from "research" to "copying"? If there were a simple answer to this question, be sure it would have been codified into law long ago. Unfortunately, there isn't -- because the issue can involve many potential variables. There are ethical and acceptable ways to use quotes and published sources in one's writing -- and there are ways that are not so ethical or acceptable. Fortunately, there are some fairly simple criteria to help one establish which is which.

When It's Research To determine whether the use of previously published materials, or quotes from other authors, can justifiably be considered "research," consider the following questions: 1 What is the audience or market for the work? If you are writing for an academic, scientific, technical, or professional audience e. A paper, article, or report in any of these categories requires evidence of the author's research -- and that evidence is provided in the form of quotes from other published research in the field.

Citation-based Plagiarism Detection

You are expected to support your ideas, theories, and statements with quotes from other experts; without those quotes, your paper would probably be rejected. In this environment, quoting from published sources is the rule rather than the exception. Authors don't object to being quoted; they expect it. Indeed, they hope for it; the more one is quoted, the better one's work becomes known. Such papers are often peer-reviewed, which means that the reviewer will be looking for this type of research support.

However, if you are writing for a consumer publication i. Consumer publications are very different from research journals, and generally don't care for material that involves a great deal of quoting from previously published sources.

Examples of plagiarism: Types of Plagiarism in Academic Research

Most consumer publications don't want material with footnotes a "must" in academic journals. So while your quotes might be technically acceptable from a research standpoint, they might make your article unsalable in the consumer marketplace. Even when you're writing for consumer publications print or electronic , you need background material. Moreover, your editor will expect you to draw upon established sources -- i. This often means reviewing published sources of information.

You'll also want to make sure those sources are accurate and acceptable which makes college texts a logical resource. Suppose, for example, that you are writing an article on animal-assisted therapy AAT for a general-interest publication. You'll probably want to define AAT for your audience, and to do this, it would be logical to draw upon current references. If you happened to study AAT in college, it would be perfectly reasonable to turn to those references for the information you want to include in your text. You are simply using established references to provide important information to your readers.

This is basic research; no one considers it "copying. In an academic journal, quotes may be used directly, or paraphrased. In either case, they are always supported with footnotes and complete references. The same is true of a consumer publication, with the exception of the footnotes. However, even copying bits and pieces from a single sentence and adding them into a project without attribution is a form of literary theft called incremental plagiarism.

Just as with direct copying, incremental copying results in a student or writer taking credit for words and ideas that are not their own. Both direct infringement and incremental infringement are unethical, irresponsible, and just plain dishonest; the punishments for those who commit them are appropriately severe. Thankfully, a free plagiarism site or premium writing tool can help students who are committed to upholding their academic integrity to spot and correct any accidentally poached phrases in their papers.

A quick scan with the BibMe Plus writing tool will help highlight phrases, sentences, or paragraphs in your paper that are found elsewhere on the internet. Each highlighted section has a prompt that will also ask you if you need a reference for it. Even better? If you review the source and determine that you need to add a citation, the plagiarism check tool will guide you through the steps of creating and inserting your reference.

Pretty awesome, right? We think so too. Patchwriting may occur as the unfortunate result of a poor attempt at paraphrasing. When patchwriting is deliberate, it is often called spinning. Patchwriting, similarly, may go undetected at a distance. However, it is often easily spotted with a closer look and a careful eye. How does it happen? Perhaps the writer rearranged words in the sentence, subbed out a few adjectives with synonyms, or used bits and pieces of the original wording and mixed it with their own. No matter the method, the original wording is often easy to spot as it peeks through its patchwork disguise.

Even though patchwriting is a form of academic dishonesty, it can be different from our first example above. In most instances, direct plagiarism is a deliberate act of deception. Patchwriting, however, may occur unintentionally, but still falls under the plagiarize definition. When you paraphrase, you demonstrate your understanding of the work by putting it into your own words to clarify its meaning. However, this is not the same as changing the structure of a sentence or swapping in synonyms—this would be an example of patchwriting.

If you find yourself struggling to paraphrase and leaning dangerously close to patchwriting territory, take some time to return to the source and better understand what the author is saying. Test yourself by teaching the subject to a willing friend or classmate and then return to your paper and try your hand again at paraphrasing. The BibMe Plus writing and plagiarism tool has you covered!

It will help display areas of concern, highlight suggestions for more depth and improvement, and provide grammar suggestions. Simply put, the BibMe Plus spell checker and grammar checker are your go-to tools for your writing and researching needs. After all, they ask, how can I steal from myself? Self-plagiarism is less about stealing and more about deceiving. When a student refurbishes or reuses work they completed in the past and turns it in a second time instead of completing a new, original work, they are not honest with their teacher.

Even reusing portions or paragraphs of your previous work without disclosing it is dishonest. Why do teachers and professors frown upon repurposing old assignments? They also want to trust that their students are putting in the effort to learn and apply new knowledge from year to year. Students who submit old work may not be stealing, but neither are they exerting the same effort as their peers or demonstrating their current competency.


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If you think that work you completed in the past should be considered for a current assignment, talk to your instructor. Perhaps they might be intrigued to see you put a new spin on a previously written paper. There are quite a few acts of intentional or unintentional dishonesty that students are surprised to learn also meet the definition of plagiarism. Including misleading citations is a form of academic dishonesty that is just as serious as direct infringement. Consider, again, the plagiarism definition: taking credit for the words or ideas of another person. Improper use of a source can only benefit the person committing the act if others are sufficiently fooled by it.

If a writer is successful at deceiving their audience, they have also succeeded in creating a false belief about the words and ideas in the source material as well as the person or people who wrote it. Instead of creating misleading citations on the fly, use our online plagiarism checker, and pinpoint where your information originated. An invented source may also be the result of poor notetaking while online conducting research.

Perhaps you found the perfect quote to include in your introduction but forgot to write down the source along with the phrase. Rather than choosing between removing the quote or inventing a reference, why not let the BibMe Plus plagiarism tool scan your paper and find the matching material for you? A check for plagiarism that is easy, fast, and, most importantly, ethical.

Uncredited paraphrasing is similar in some ways to incremental plagiarism. In its incremental form, however, infringement may be poorly paraphrased work that, nonetheless, does include a citation.

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Uncredited paraphrasing, on the other hand, suggests that the student has done the work to paraphrase the source material, but has failed to credit the original author properly. What is accidental plagiarism? It could be as simple as a forgotten citation, or as complicated as not knowing where you learned a fact.

Avoiding Plagiarism: Graduate thesis/research writing

Accidental appropriation can occur when, for example, a student fails to include a citation for an idea that they acquired while reading for pleasure because they assumed this fit the definition of information gained through experience. Need help checking your paper and building your bibliography? Let our plagiarism tool free up more of your time by helping you create and place citations right where you need them. Try it now! How to avoid accusations of plagiarism with your research manuscript and increase its chance of publication. Toggle navigation Toggle navigation.


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News, tips, and resources from the academic publishing experts at AJE. Read More. Plagiarism in Academic Writing: How to Identify and Avoid It AJE has resources to help you understand the various types of plagiarism and how best to avoid any accusations of unethical behavior in your writing. Popular Categories Writing a manuscript Finishing touches Choosing a journal Peer review and publication Sharing your research Research process Publication ethics.

Plagiarism in Academic Writing: How to Identify and Avoid It

Share with your colleagues. Related Articles. Plagiarism in Academic Writing Avoiding Plagiarism How to avoid accusations of plagiarism with your research manuscript and increase its chance of publication.