RESEARCH IN PHILOSOPHY 7. A Word About Academic Honesty
Plagiarism is an attempt to pass off someone else’s ideas or words as your own. You are committing plagiarism anytime you fail to give credit to an author whose ideas you use in your paper, even if you completely rephrase those ideas in your own words.
7.1 Understanding Plagiarism
Plagiarism can take either of two basic forms — intentional or unintentional. As a college student, it is vital for you to understand both these forms, and to avoid committing acts of intentional or unintentional plagiarism when writing your paper.
In some cases students plagiarize without even realizing it. This sort of unintentional plagiarism occurs when students inadvertently fail to give proper credit for ideas that they use in their paper.
Another form of unintentional plagiarism occurs when students accidentally lift the language of an author without realizing it. This can occur if a student fails to rephrase an author’s language sufficiently in his note cards or forgets to put quotation marks around an author’s own words.
Although most professors tend to be somewhat understanding when it comes to unintentional plagiarism, it is still wrong and can get you into serious trouble. At the very least, you will get a much lower grade on your research paper than you would have if you were more careful about giving authors due credit for their ideas.
There are some students who, for one reason or another, resort to intentional acts of plagiarism in order to complete a paper or assignment. These students may lift entire sections of their paper from the Internet or a book. They may even buy a paper from one of the many on-line paper mills that now exist.
From a professor’s perspective, there are few more serious academic offenses than intentional plagiarism, and most are usually quite sadistic in the way in which they respond to students who commit this sort of offense. Let’s make this perfectly clear: if you are caught in the act of intentional plagiarism, you risk failure, suspension, and even expulsion. You will experience shame, degradation, and the disapprobation of all civilized society. And you will probably wind up spending the rest of your life working as an assistant manager at your local McDonald’s.
If you want to prevent this horrible fate from coming to fruition, then, avoid plagiarism like the plague!
Simple Rules for Avoiding Plagiarism
Rule #1. If you use an author’s specific words, you must place those words in quotation marks and cite the source of your information. If you fail to do this, then you are committing plagiarism.
Rule #2. If you obtain information from a source, even if you use your own words, you still must give that source due credit. If you fail to do this, then you are committing plagiarism.
Rule #3. The only time when you don’t have to cite a source of information is when you are citing factual information that is commonly known. For example, historic events and dates associated with well-known figures are considered factual information in the public domain, and the source of such information, therefore, doesn’t have to be cited. In all other cases, if you fail to cite the sources of your information, you are committing plagiarism
Rule #4. (The Golden Rule). When in doubt, give credit. It can’t hurt to go a bit overboard in documenting the sources of your information. If nothing else, at least your professor will congratulate you on being thorough.
A Not-So-Pleasant Warning: You Will Get Caught!
Some students choose to engage in plagiarism because they think that the odds of getting caught are so slim that it is worth the risk. In fact, the chances of getting caught plagiarizing have never been higher now that professors at Molloy are equipped with tools like "Turn-It-In." This program enables college professors to determine exactly what percentage of a paper has been plagiarized, and provides the evidence they need to ensure that guilty students are properly punished for their crimes against thought. Don’t become a plagiarism statistic…write your own papers.
7.2 Recognizing Plagiarism
Let’s pretend that you have decided to write a paper for your ethics class on the ethics of eating. After doing much reading on the subject, you decide that you would like to focus your paper on the harmful effects of meat consumption on individual meat consumers, the animals that are consumed, and the environment. You have read the following selection from John Lawrence Hill’s, The Case for Vegetarianism, and are planning to use some of his ideas for a section of your paper dealing with the connection between diseases of affluence and meat consumption in our society.
Here are some ways that a typical student might choose to use this information in his paper:
The Original Source
The diseases of affluence—heart disease, cancer, and diabetes—so called because their incidence is much higher in wealthy nations where diets are rich in meat, sugar, and refined foods, are the conditions that top the list as killers in the United States and other parts of the First World. Heart disease and cancer are the first and second most significant causes of death in the United States today, respectively. Both are inextricably linked to meat eating….
As might be expected from what has already been said, lacto-ovo vegetarians have a greatly reduced risk of heart disease (one-third that of meat eaters), while the risk is cut even more radically with a vegan diet (to one-tenth that of meat eaters)….
Hill, John Lawrence. The Case for Vegetarianism (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1996): 83-84.
Intentional Plagiarism The following represents the grossest sort of plagiarism possible. The student who wrote this passage simply changed a few words and phrases and shifted some of the author’s sentences around. Even though he gave credit to the author for the ideas expressed in his paper, he is still guilty of plagiarism, since he failed to rephrase the author’s ideas in his own language.
The diseases of affluence (heart disease, cancer, and diabetes) are the conditions that top the list as killers in the United States and in other parts of the First World. They are called diseases of affluence because their incidence is much higher in wealthy nations, like the United States, where diets are rich in meat, sugar, and refined foods. Such diseases of affluence are directly connected to meat consumption.
Vegetarians have a much better chance of avoiding such diseases than do their meat-eating counterparts. While lacto-ovo vegetarians have a greatly reduced risk of heart disease (one-third that of meat eaters), the risk is cut even more radically with a vegan diet (Hill 83-84).
In the following example, the student did a much better job of paraphrasing the author’s ideas and giving him credit in the parenthetical citation. The student, however, has still included several phrases lifted directly from Hill that were probably the result of sloppy note-taking while he was reading this work:
In his work, The Case for Vegetarianism, John Lawrence Hill makes a clear connection between the kinds of "diseases of affluence" that are endemic throughout the First World and our excessive consumption of meat. Conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, he argues, top the list of killers in the United States and other parts of the first world, and are directly linked to our consumption of meat, sugar and refined foods. Lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans, who avoid meat altogether, have a much better chance of avoiding such diseases than do traditional meat eaters (Hill 83-84).
To avoid this kind of unintentional plagiarism, the student should have taken the time to completely rephrase the author’s words into his own language during the note-taking phase of his research.
A Proper Paraphrase
Notice how the student in the following selection took the time to rework the author’s words completely into his own language. The ideas clearly are the author’s, but the student made the effort to put his own spin on these ideas. He also gives credit to the author in the form of a parenthetical citation at the end of the paragraph.
In his work, The Case for Vegetarianism, John Lawrence Hill makes a clear connection between the kinds of "diseases of affluence" that are endemic throughout the First World and our excessive consumption of meat. Conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, he argues, are some of the main causes of death in the First World, and are directly linked to our consumption of meat, sugar and refined foods. Lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans, who avoid meat altogether, are much less likely to fall prey to such diseases than are traditional meat eaters. Vegans, for example, have one-tenth the instance of cancer than meat eaters, making theirs the optimal diet for avoiding this horrible disease (Hill 83-84).
Does it take time and effort to paraphrase someone else’s writing, to quote where appropriate, and to give proper credit to all the sources of information in your paper? You bet it does! But this is the only acceptable way to write a college research paper. So deal with it!