Editor's note: The following blog entry is the second part of a Plagiarism Series designed to assist students in online degree programs with proper citation in research papers. To read Part I on how to get caught plagiarizing, please visit here. Stay tuned to the GU blog next Tuesday, March 20, for the third and final part of the series.

I remember it all too clearly: “A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter. A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter … Mommy, Mommy, I remembered!” (In surfdr, 2008). It was a lesson in memory. “You have a good memory,” the girl’s mother said (2008). I wanted to have a good memory too.

Years later, when interviewing for a job, I was asked how I remember things. I should have said that I write things down. I didn’t. I said, “I repeat it over and over in my head until I know it.” I got the job, but not because of that answer. Sometimes even Sesame Street can let you down (still no excuse, NT Girl!).

Now that I teach, I know the value of writing things down. After all, we can’t commit everything to memory, especially when we start working with complex ideas, and when we need to give credit to the contribution of others.

When working with others' ideas, we must leave a record, not only to remember where we encountered that idea, but so our readers can experience the texts — citing adds to humanity’s collective memory. When we don’t do this or we take someone else’s ideas and call them our own, we not only kidnap those ideas, but disrupt the collective memory. Of course, we can’t avoid others' ideas; why would we?

The following guide will help you avoid plagiarism when working with references.

Avoiding Plagiarism:

The simple rule to avoid plagiarism: Anything you didn’t personally write, gather, experience or create needs to be cited in the text and in a references page.

Suppose we are writing an essay on violence in the media. As we are researching, we read the following passage from Richard Rhodes’ article (2006) “Hollow Claims about Fantasy Violence":

“Despite the lack of evidence, politicians can’t resist blaming the media for violence.”

The following would not be the way to cite the information and we’d be guilty of plagiarism:

There is a lot of talk in the world today about the disturbing images on TV. We live in a violent world, and so it stands to reason that the government would take measures to reduce that violence; however, despite the lack of evidence, politicians can’t resist blaming the media for violence in our society. But is the media the cause of society’s violent nature or simply a reflection of it?

This can be easily fixed with proper citation. There are three options:

Option 1 (direct quote + citation)

There is a lot of talk in the world today about the disturbing images on TV. We live in a violent world, and so it stands to reason that the government would take measures to reduce that violence; however, “despite the lack of evidence, politicians can’t resist blaming the media for violence” in our society (Rhodes, 2006, p. 717). But is the media the cause of society’s violent nature or simply a reflection of it?

Option 2 (direct quote + citation)

There is a lot of talk in the world today about the disturbing images on TV. We live in a violent world, and so it stands to reason that the government would take measures to reduce that violence; however, as Richard Rhodes claims in his article (2006) “Hollow Claims about Fantasy Violence,” that “despite the lack of evidence, politicians can’t resist blaming the media for violence” in our society (p. 717). But is the media the cause of society’s violent nature or simply a reflection of it?

Option 3 (paraphrasing the quote)

There is a lot of talk in the world today about the disturbing images on TV. We live in a violent world, and so it stands to reason that the government would take measures to reduce that violence; however, even without evidence, politicians claim that violent images on TV promote violence in real life. But is the media the cause of society’s violent nature or simply a reflection of it? (Rhodes, 2006, p. 717).

I explained this process a bit more previously in a blog called “Citation Tips for Better Research Papers.” Just remember, avoiding plagiarism is about being honest in your work, recognizing the work of others when using their words or ideas, and learning and paying attention to the rules of citing. No one expects you to cite perfectly at first, but if you show you are trying, Grantham University's instructors can help you the rest of the way.

 

References

Rhodes, R. (2006). Hollow claims about fantasy violence. In A.T. Rottenberg & D.H. Winchell

(Eds.), Elements of argument: a text and reader (8th ed.). Boston. Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Tim Goss is a full-time English instructor with Grantham University. He has his very own Tickle Me Elmo Keychain, and considers the time he spent watching Sesame Street as a child to be his glory days.

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