What Is Plagiarism? How to Avoid It and Cite Sources

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What Is Plagiarism? How to Avoid It and Cite Sources

When it comes to plagiarizing, we only have one thing to say: don't.

· Writers' Zone ·
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Plagiarism, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is “the action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own.”

This includes copying and pasting text from other sources and inserting them into your own work, or even just rewording text from another source. Anything that does not reflect your own thoughts or ideas, with incorrect attributions, or a lack thereof, is an act of plagiarism.

There are also less obvious forms of plagiarism. In an article covering common forms of plagiarism, Bowdoin University provided an example of indirect plagiarism:

Original Source Student Writer
"Contrast the condition into which all these friendly Indians are suddenly plunged now, with their conditions two years previous..."
"Only two years later, all these friendly Sioux were suddenly plunged into new conditions."

While this does not directly copy text from the source, it does provide an almost identical explanation with similar wording. Instead of "friendly Sioux were suddenly plunged into new conditions," the author could have summarized the text, saying: "the Sioux tribe, a group of amiable individuals, found themselves in uncharted territory."

This effectively communicates the information from the source, but in a new and original way. The key here is that the phrasing is all your own.

Additionally, taking a quote and using a thesaurus, so the words are not identical, is also an act of plagiarism. Discover Magazine wrote an article titled, "Copy, Paste, Thesaurus?" where they show specific examples of this:


Lore perpetuates the myth of innovation as a solitary act, a flash of creative insight, an Aha! moment in the mind of a genius. People apparently prefer to believe in the rugged individualism of discovery, perhaps because they rarely get to see the sausage-making process behind every breakthrough innovation.

Three decades of research has clearly revealed that innovation is most often a group effort. Thomas Edison, for example, is remembered as probably the greatest American inventor of the early twentieth century. From his fertile mind came the light bulb and the phonograph, along with more than a thousand other patented inventions over a sixty-year career. But he hardly worked alone.

Wisdom perpetuates the legend of modernism as a private act, a spark of originality imminent, an Aha! Instant in the brain of a mastermind. People in fact favor to consider in the rough individuality of detection, possibly since they hardly ever get to see the sausage-making process behind every get through modernism.

Three decades of investigate has obviously exposed that modernism is most often a group attempt. Thomas Edison, for example, is remembered as almost certainly the most American discoverer of the untimely 20th century. From his productive intelligence came the brightest bulb and the turntable, along with additional than a thousand further untested inventions over a sixty-year vocation. However, he only just worked by yourself.

In the example from Discover, you see that while the text is different, this is not an original piece of writing by any means. 

How Can You Avoid Plagiarizing?

Now that we've defined plagiarism, let's take a look at some ways to avoid it.

Avoiding plagiarism is easy; you simply inform the reader of where you found your information. That's it. As shown above, I found my definition of plagiarism on the Oxford English Dictionary's website. I provided the exact source and used the insert link option, which is highlighted in blue in the image below. 

Image title

Super easy.

While DZone doesn't require authors to use internal citations within their article, we do ask that any direct quotes reference the original source via a URL link. For example:

According to Brian Goetz's book Java Concurrency in Practice, "It is far easier to design a class to be thread-safe than to retrofit it for thread safety later."

You can also provide references to sources further down the page, as long as the sources are not directly quoted. This is especially handy if your source is not available online, like a book, talk, etc. It could look something like this:


Why Does Attribution Matter?

Plagiarism is theft. And it's not cool. At DZone, we take pride in our authors. We never want to publish someone else's hard work without the proper citations. DZone is all about creating a collaborative, learning community for developers. So we need to make sure we are all giving credit where credit is due. 

We hope this short guide helps you in your writing process. If you have any further questions about plagiarism, or how to properly reference sources on DZone, please feel free to drop a comment below or email us at editors@dzone.com.

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