Plagiarism, Use and Misuse of Sources
In the world of research and scholarship, ideas belong to the people who think them up.
Scholars make their living off of trading their ideas in the same way that songwriters
make money off their music or moviemakers make money from DVD sales. In the same
way that there are laws that prevent making illegal copies of a song or a movie, there are
also regulations against copying people’s ideas, written work, lectures or Web site
contents and presenting them as your own work.
At NECC, the code of academic ethics says "Plagiarism is clearly an example of a
violation of Academic Ethics and is a major offense... Plagiarism is defined by the
college to be the use of any other person’s work or ideas as though the work or ideas
were their own, without giving the appropriate credit… Instructors who take action as a
result of a plagiarism incident may report such action to the Vice President of Academic
Affairs. There shall be a range of penalties at the discretion of the instructor which may
extend to a recommendation to the Vice President of Academic Affairs for expulsion
from the College" (http://www.necc.mass.edu/ssi/academic_policies.html).
How can you avoid plagiarism and misuse of sources?
In order to avoid misuse of sources, you must give credit to the author whenever you:
Quote spoken, written or printed words from another source
Present another person's idea, theory or opinion
Paraphrase spoken, written or printed words from another source
Quote any statistics, graphs or other images, pictures or facts that are not common
It doesn't matter whether the source is a printed book, a Web site, a lecture, movie or
conversation. Any time you present another person's ideas or work in your own writing,
you must cite your source.
Correct Use of Sources
A correct use of a source has three components:
• The other person’s idea (usually text) that you are using, enclosed in quotes if
• The citation: identifies briefly where the information came from
• The reference: that gives the complete name of the source in the Works Cited list
at the end of your paper with information about how to find the original source
If you use a source and are missing one of these three components, then that's a misuse of
General or common knowledge refers to facts that can be readily found in multiple
sources and would be known to the average person who is reading your work. You do
not have to quote or cite a source for general knowledge. Beware of statements that
appear to be general knowledge, but which are actually someone's opinion.
Sometimes a chunk of text or set of ideas is too big to quote in your paper, or you want to
change or simplify the language for some reason. You are allowed to paraphrase the
language of an outside source as long as (1) the language of your paraphrase is
sufficiently different from the original source and (2) you cite the source
Example of acceptable and unacceptable paraphrasing
Original Text Unacceptable Paraphrase Acceptable Paraphrase
The rise of industry, the growth The increase of industry, the Fall River, where the Borden
of cities, and the expansion of growth of cities, and the explosion family lived, was typical of
the population were the three of the population were three large northeastern industrial cities of
great developments of late factors of nineteenth century the nineteenth century. Steam-
nineteenth century American America. As steam-driven powered production had shifted
history. As new, larger, steam- companies became more visible in labor from agriculture to
powered factories became a the eastern part of the country, they manufacturing, and as immigrants
feature of the American changed farm hands into factory arrived in the US, they found
landscape in the East, they workers and provided jobs for the work in these new factories. As a
transformed farm hands into large wave of immigrants. With result, populations grew, and
industrial laborers, and industry came the growth of large large urban areas arose. Fall
provided jobs for a rising tide of cities like Fall River where the River was one of these
immigrants. With industry came Bordens lived which turned into manufacturing and commercial
urbanization the growth of large centers of commerce and trade as centers (Williams 1).
cities (like Fall River, well as production.
Massachusetts, where the
Bordens lived) which became
the centers of production as
well as of commerce and trade.
(From "Plagiarism: What it is and How to Recognize It," http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/plagiarism.shtml)
A Warning about Paper Mills
The image below is a screen capture of a program called EVE. This program is one of
several that I sometimes use to search Internet paper mills—even ones that claim to be
hidden—to see if a paper is original work. EVE, and other similar programs have the
ability to catch papers that escape a simple Google search.
Often students get caught because the papers
they bought are themselves plagiarized from
published sources that turn up on something
as simple as a Google search.
Writers who supply papers to mills are
usually not very good, so even something
purported to be an “A” paper is typically not
(actual good writers have better ways of
making money than writing for mills).
Most of them are poorly written, and none
I've seen would receive a good grade in my
class. None of them is worth the money.