Citizen Journalism Priority: Avoiding Plagiarism in Research and Writing

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  • Posted on: 6 August 2016
  • By: deltadoc

Citizen Journalism Priority: Avoiding Plagiarism in Research and Writing

by luaptifer
Tue Sep 06, 2005 at 06:19:29 PM EST
Update [2005-9-7 9:21:43 by luaptifer]: obtained Dr. Hexham's permission for a more extensive excerpt of The Plague of Plagiarism

As a skeptic, I always need evidence.

As a scientist, whose work is entirely dependent on work done by others before me, one of the things built into the infrastructure of my training was the utter necessity to refer to, to document, and to explicitly cite the writing on which my thoughts and efforts was founded.

After I ventured into the discussion domain of the internet, I observed that I was among the 5-10% of message board inhabitants to exhibit the rare behavior of correct attribution and source citation. It proved invaluable when in argument with kneejerk reactionaries so many times (even the rare 1% who'd cite) to backtrack their assertions where I'd nearly always find the info to undermine their use of widely distributed talking points.


It is now second nature to me: to quote and link work I'm using in current research and writing efforts.

Citizen Journalism :: ::

The investigative work we do here is entirely dependent upon the same things, the work of other writers, and requires the same care to explicitly and correctly attribute the work we're building upon. I've noticed in some research we post and articles we draft that SOP may not be second nature to all of us.

For a refresher, I thought I'd excerpt the best compilation of How to Avoid Plagiarism examples that I found and present them here. To motivate us all to be mindful of the issues, remember that it was our exposure of Jeff Gannon/James Guckert's plagiarism of other writers that helped to wreck his propaganda machine.

As much effort as we all contribute to ePluribus, I'm sure that it's a universal desire we not subject ourselves to the same disastrous outcome by way of inadvertent plagiarism. So at least once, please do a careful review of these examples!

 

A couple of rules of thumb:

The Four Words Rule
If you use more than four words from any source, put them in quotation marks and identify the source with a reference mark.

The Check It Rule
Google up results elsewhere on the Net of half of a line of text that's exactly the same as the text in front of me, particularly if the words used in query are highly unique.

The Link It Rule
If you use a quote and your source is available on-line, provide the link to the source in your reference.

What follow, below, are excerpts from Academic Plagiarism Defined at the University of Calgary. First, because many of us come from endeavours in which citation of sources may not be routinely required, I'd like to direct the reader to other relevant notes on using primary sources and references by the same author, Professor Irving Hexham:

An Introduction to Some Basic Methods: History may be bunk but you can still debunk historians and other academics

The Key to Academic Adventure: Read the footnotes

 

 

Excerpts of Academic Plagiarism Defined by Professor Irving Hexham

Never cut and paste text to create a paper from several quoted sources, supplying only your own introduction and conclusion. This is a patchwork quilt, not an essay. It is, however, a common and helpful practice to assemble all of your information into sections while you are doing your research and planning, always making sure that when you separate and file each piece of information it has the citation information attached. Use quotations only when the idea could not be said in a better way, when the quotation fits in smoothly with your own reasoning, and when the author of the quote is a acknowledged authority on the subject. Otherwise, paraphrase or summarize.

 

An excellent source for information on what IS plagiarism, and how to best avoid it, can be found in the following on-line essay:

 

THE PLAGUE OF PLAGIARISM

by Dr. Irving Hexham
Department of Religious Studies
The University of Calgary

With the author's express permission, the following excerpts are taken, verbatim, from - http://www.ucalgary.ca/~hexham/study/plag.html

 

What is plagiarism?

Poor citations and the misuse of sources are not the only problems one encounters when checking footnotes. A more serious problem is plagiarism. Several years ago someone on the Internet discussion group Humanist Forum raised the question of academic plagiarism and asked how common is plagiarism and how can it be identified? After a few short responses it appeared that most people of the contributors had a tale to tell, but none seemed very clear about exactly how plagiarism should be identified

Plagiarism is the deliberate attempt to deceive the reader through the appropriation and representation as one's own the words and work of others. Academic plagiarism occurs when a writer repeatedly uses more than four words from a printed source without the use of quotation marks and a precise reference to the original source in a work presented as the author's own research and scholarship.

Types of plagiarism

The following forms of plagiarism were found in various academic books and manuscripts. The specific examples used in this paper were created using citations from my book The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981) to avoid possibly embarrassing some well-known scholars whose work readers might recognize. Each section begins with an original statement from my book. The statement is then plagiarized to provide examples of the different ways a text may be misappropriated. The nature of the offense is explained and an example of correct usage is provided.

When you read the examples they may seem repetitive and boring, but a careful study of the ways they are constructed will enable you to recognize plagiarism when you encounter it.

1. Straight plagiarism:

This occurs where only capitalization and sentence structures are changed and the odd word is added or deleted. But, the original author is not acknowledged nor are quotation marks used. The minor change in wording, changed capitalization, sentence structure and other visible features alter the appearance of the passage giving the appearance that it is original work.

Original:

But Hertzog recognized the danger and stood up for the rights of the Afrikaner. Only the National Party offered a Christian solution to South Africa's racial problems. The politics of the nationalists, were in the view of Het Westen, unquestionably Christian. The Afrikaner People were a Christian people, therefore their politics must of necessity be Christian.1

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), p. 185.

Plagiarism:

But General Hertzog recognized the danger and fought for the rights of the Afrikaner. Only the National Party offered a Christian solution to South Africa's racial problems. The politics of the Nationalists, were in the view of the newspaperHet Westen, thoroughly Christian. The Afrikaner People were a Christian People, therefore their politics must of necessity be Christian.

Correct usage:

Hexham writes “But Hertzog recognized the danger and stood up for the rights of the Afrikaner. Only the National Party offered a Christian solution to South Africa's racial problems. The politics of the nationalists, were in the view of Het Westen, unquestionably Christian. The Afrikaner People were a Christian people, therefore their politics must of necessity be Christian.1

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), p. 185.

2. Plagiarism using a citation:

Here although the real author is acknowledged plagiarism takes place because the original text is reproduced with only minor changes without using either quotation marks or footnotes:

Original:

But Hertzog recognized the danger and stood up for the rights of the Afrikaner. Only the National Party offered a Christian solution to South Africa's racial problems. The politics of the nationalists, were in the view of Het Westen, unquestionably Christian. The Afrikaner People were a Christian people, therefore therefore their politics must of necessity be Christian.1

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), p. 185.

Plagiarism:

Professor Hexham brilliantly observes that Hertzog recognized the danger and stood up for the rights of the Afrikaner. Only the National Party offered a Christian solution to South Africa's racial problems. The politics of the nationalists, were in the view of Het Westen, unquestionably Christian. The Afrikaner People were a Christian people, therefore their politics must of necessity be Christian.

This is an example of plagiarism even though the author acknowledges a debt to “Professor Hexham,” because appropriate quotation marks are not used nor are we given a page reference to the source. Note also the use of the word “brilliant.” In my experience, plagiarists often use exaggerated descriptions of someone's work before plagiarizing it. This is probably because we are all flattered when someone says we are “brilliant.” Therefore we are unlikely to look to closely at a work or complain about the misuse of our own work by someone who clearly likes us. Therefore, such terms are often triggers that warn us we are about to encounter plagiarism.

Correct usage:

Professor Hexham observes that “Hertzog recognized the danger and stood up for the rights of the Afrikaner.Only the National Party offered a Christian solution to South Africa's racial problems. The politics of the nationalists, were in the view of Het Westen, unquestionably Christian. The Afrikaner People were a Christian people, therefore their politics must of necessity be Christian.”1

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), p. 185.

3. Simple plagiarism using a footnote:

A reference is provided but quotation marks are still not used when academic rules for citation demand their use and some words are slightly changed to make the passage appear to be different from the original.

Original:

But Hertzog recognized the danger and stood up for the rights of the Afrikaner. Only the National Party offered a Christian solution to South Africa's racial problems. The politics of the nationalists, were in the view of Het Westen, unquestionably Christian. The Afrikaner People were a Christian people, therefore their politics must of necessity be Christian.1

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), p. 185.

Plagiarism:

In his insightful book The Irony of Apartheid Dr. Hexham observes that Dr. Hertzog recognized the danger and stood up against the British for the rights of the Afrikaner. Only the Nationale Partie offered a real solution to South Africa's racial problems. The politics of Afrikaner Nationalists, were in the view of Het Westen, entirely Christian. The Afrikaner Volk were a Christian People, therefore their politics must of necessity be Christian.1

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid, chapter 7

Note the flattering use of “insightful”, and minor changes to the text such as the substitution of “Dr” for “General”, and “Volk” for “People”. Note also that quotations marks are still not used even though they are required, nor are we given an exact page number.

Correct usage:

In his book The Irony of Apartheid Dr. Hexham observes that “General Hertzog recognized the danger and stood up against the British for the rights of the Afrikaner. Only the National Party offered a real solution to South Africa's racial problems. The politics of the Nationalists, were in the view of Het Westen, entirely Christian. The Afrikaner People were a Christian People, therefore their politics must of necessity be Christian.”1

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), p. 185.

4. Complex plagiarism using a footnote:

This happens when various changes and paraphrases, from more than one page, are used with a footnote but without appropriate quotation marks. Thus a reference is given, although it may not be to exactly the correct page, and many words and phrases are taken from the original text. Paraphrasing is used to condense lengthy arguments. But, little or no indication is given that the passage is paraphrased, nor are quotation marks used when needed. Another technique, found in this type of plagiarism is a deliberate attempt to change the appearance, but not contents, of the sentences, thus making the plagiarism less noticeable.

For example:

Original:

Such views articulated in the student magazines, also received clear, though less detailed treatment in Het Westen. Afrikaners were reminded that they were a Calvinist People with a duty to retain their nationalism.1 . . . In the view ofHet Westen, ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church like General Botha’s friend Herman Bosman were mistaken in arguing, like their leader Andrew Murray, for separation of religion and politics.2

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), 182.
2Ibid., 187

Plagiarism:

Such views articulated in the student magazines, also received clear, though less detailed treatment in The Westernerwhich reminded Afrikaners that they were a Calvinist Volk with a duty to retain their nationalism.1 In the view of this newspaper, ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church like Herman Bosman, General Botha’s friend, were “mistaken in arguing, like Dr. Andrew Murray for the separation of religion and politics” even though he was their mentor.2

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), 182.
2The Westerner, 4/12/1912.

Here Het Westen becomes “The Westerner” giving the impression that the author is translating from the Afrikaans original. Note also the way the order of certain short phrases, like “General Botha’s friend”, are changed around. This type of alteration to the text disguises the extent of the plagiarism making it less easy to spot. Finally, although part of the quotation is placed in quotation marks it is done is such a way that the reader is led to believe that the writer is directly quoting from the newspaper and not from The Irony of Apartheid.

Correct usage:

Hexham writes “Such views articulated in the student magazines, also received clear, though less detailed treatment inHet Westen. Afrikaners were reminded that they were a Calvinist People with a duty to retain their nationalism.”1 Later he adds that “In the view of Het Westen, ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church like General Botha’s friend Herman Bosman were mistaken in arguing, like their leader Andrew Murray, for separation of religion and politics.”2

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981),182
2Ibid., 187.

5. Plagiarism with hanging quotations:

Here the plagiarist begins by using a quotation but continues to quote after closing the quotation marks.

Original:

Hertzog's policies were also seen as an expression of the myth of apartheid." He, and he alone, was represented as holding a realistic racial policy by which was meant one which segregated black from white. “Natives have to learn that they are not equal to whites,” Het Westen declared. The native must learn to recognize that white technology and industry has raised them from barbarism. Too many people reacted emotionally to the race question and assumed colored people could be given a greater say in the government of South Africa.1

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), p. 184.

Plagiarism:

According to Hexham “Hertzog's policies were also seen as an expression of the myth of apartheid.”1 He, and he alone, was represented as holding a realistic racial policy by which was meant one which segregated black from white. The Afrikaans newspaper, Het Westen declared “Natives have to learn that they are unequal to whites.”2 Hexham says this meant that “the native must learn to recognize that white technology and industry has raised them from barbarism.”3Clearly, in view of Het Westen too many individuals reacted emotionally to the race question. Only radicals assumed Colored People could be given a greater say in the Government of South Africa.

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), p. 184.
2Het Westen, 7/27/1906.
3Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), p. 184.

Here plagiarized passages are sandwiched in between genuine quotations while yet again the reader is led to believe that the author is citing directly from Het Westen when, in fact they are still citing The Irony of Apartheid.

Correct usage:

According to Hexham “Hertzog's policies were also seen as an expression of the myth of apartheid. He, and he alone, was represented as holding a realistic racial policy by which was meant one which segregated black from white.”1 The Afrikaans newspaper, Het Westen, declared “Natives have to learn that they are not equal to whites.”2 Hexham says this meant that “the native must learn to recognize that white technology and industry has raised them from barbarism.”3 Clearly, in view of Het Westen, “Too many people reacted emotionally to the race question and assumed colored people could be given a greater say in the government of South Africa.”4

1Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen), 1981, p. 184.
2Het Westen 7/27/1906, cited in Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), p. 184.
3Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1981), p. 184.
4Ibid.

6. Paraphrasing as plagiarism:

Paraphrasing without reference to the original, and extensive or continuous paraphrasing, even when the source is mentioned, is plagiarism. This type of plagiarism is more difficult to prove. Nevertheless, it is plagiarism. Legitimate paraphrasing takes place only where the source is acknowledged:

1) when paraphrasing does not dominate a writer's work;

2) where the paraphrase is made to allow the author to interact critically with another person's views;

3) when the argument of the original text is re-written in different words.

When a chapter or an entire book contains introductory and/or closing pages, or paragraphs, written by an author followed by other paragraphs, making up the core of the chapter or book, which are all paraphrased from other people's work, then the chapter or book is plagiarized. Compiling the views of other people and passing them off as one's own research is not scholarship. Nor can such works claim to be original even though nobody else has produced exactly the same collection of compiled opinion.

Originality in scholarship demands original thought and critical reflection on the views of others not mere repetition. Only when an author adds significant and original insights is paraphrasing justified; even then the norms of scholarship demand that all paraphrased passages be clearly identified.

7 Self-plagiarism:

Some people argue that self-plagiarism is impossible by definition because plagiarism is theft and people cannot steal from their own work. But, this is not correct in law. There are circumstances, such as insurance fraud, embezzlement, etc., when it is possible to steal from oneself. In the Internet Humanist Forum, professor Paul Brians of the University of Montreal, argued that self-plagiarism "is also a theft since the author leads the book-buyer to think that there is a new book of his on the market . . . The author is misleading his/her readers: to me, it is just the same thing as to sell a second-hand car while claiming it's a brand new one" (The Humanist Forum 7/13, 16 April 1992).

Perhaps a better analogy is the used car dealer who changes a car's odometer to make it appear much less used than it really is. Such a practice is recognized to be illegal. So too self-plagiarism is fraud (Brogan 1992:453-465).

Self-plagiarism must be distinguished from the recycling of one’s work that to a greater or lesser extent everyone does legitimately. Although self-plagiarism in academic publications is a gray area many universities implicitly recognize the practice as fraudulent. Thus most universities have rules preventing students from submitting essentially the same essay for credit in different courses. There are also rules against someone submitting the same thesis to different universities. Among established academics self-plagiarism is a problem when essentially the same article or book is submitted on more than one occasion to gain additional salary increments or for purpose of promotion.

Like all plagiarism, self-plagiarism occurs when the author attempts to deceive the reader. This happens when no indication is given that the work is being recycled or when an effort is made to disguise the original text. The issue once again is one of deception. Disguising a text occurs when an author makes cosmetic changes that make the same book or paper look different when it actually remains unchanged in its central argument. Changing such things as paragraph breaks, capitalization, or the substitution of technical terms in different languages, causes readers to believe they are reading something completely new. If these are the only changes an author has made then they may be legitimately described as self-plagiarism and fraudulent.

The extent of re-cycling is also an indication of self-plagiarism. Academics are expected to republish revised versions of their Ph.D. thesis. They also often develop different aspects of an argument in several papers that require the repetition of certain key passages. This is not self-plagiarism if the complete work develops new insights. It is self-plagiarism if the argument, examples, evidence, and conclusion remain the same in two works that only differ in their appearance.

Correct citation and quotation

To avoid plagiarism it is necessary to know how to cite works correctly and use quotations. For this The Chicago Manual of Style is invaluable. It states:

10.1 Ideally, authors of works of original scholarship present their arguments in their own words.

10.2 Whenever authors paraphrase or quote from sources directly, they should give credit to the words and ideas taken from others.

10.3 Commonly known facts, available in numerous sources, should not be enclosed in quotation marks or given a source citation unless the wording is taken directly from another. Also not treated as quotations are proverbial, biblical, and well-known literary expressions used as part of the author's text.

(The Chicago Manual of Style, 1982: 282)

Although these comments are very helpful, many people might be left wondering when they ought to use quotation marks. The accepted rule of thumb is after four words. That means you must use quotation marks for any passage copied from another work containing five or more words. To help students avoid such problems many university departments publish essay guides. These should be carefully read. For example, the Department of Politics at the University of Calgary publishes an essay guide: Write On: A Reference Manual for Students Research and Writing which states:

If you use more than four words from any source, put them in quotation marks and identify the source with a reference mark. (Write On, 1989: 20)


A few students and academics argue that provided a citation is given plagiarism cannot be said to have taken place. Therefore, they claim, quotation marks are not necessary. This view is completely wrong and legally false. In the Napolitano v. Princeton University Trustees case the use of footnotes to a plagiarized text proved intent to deceive. Academic authors who give the impression that they are following standard procedures, by their use of footnotes etc., when they are actually borrowing the words and ideas of others without appropriate references or quotation marks are plagiarizing (Mawdsley 1985: 6-7).

Exactly which reference system, and several are available, a writer chooses to use is not unimportant. What is essential is that the reader knows exactly which sections of the work are original to the author and which depend upon the thoughts and words of others. All sources must be documented and every quotation has to be placed within quotation marks.

Anyone wanting more help on this topic should read books like The Chicago Manual of Style, Kate L. Turabian's A Manual of Style for Writers (Turabian 1973), The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing (Secretary of State 1985), or one of the many other texts available in academic bookstores.