Citing, referencing and avoiding plagiarism
You can avoid committing plagiarism by:
✵Reminding yourself exactly what plagiarism is, and why it is important.
✵Writing an assignment that is your own argument.
✵Organising your research, note-taking, planning, drafting, reviewing and editing so that you have enough time to do them well, without taking shortcuts.
✵Weaving the facts and ideas of others into your argument by mentioning, summarising, paraphrasing and quoting, and using the appropriate conventions to cite and reference.
✵Keeping careful track of your sources and how you have used them to inform your argument.
Managing information from sources is a case of keeping a sound ’audit trail’:
1Keep a full bibliographic record for each source you wish to use (authors, date, publication title, publisher, and so on). If you don’t, it is very annoying and time-consuming to gather this information later. It is also helpful to make a short note of how you tracked down the source (see Chapters 4 and 11).
2Keep your bibliographic records in an electronic database (perhaps using reference management software such as Endnote or Mendeley), or in a card index, along with any notes you have made about the reference source.
3Never copy and paste chunks of source text into your plan or draft for an assignment, thinking that you can later ’tweak it’ and make it your own.
4If you ever copy and paste material from a source, and decide to add it to your background notes for an assignment, put quotation marks around the copied material along with a full citation that includes the page number. This way you will know that the words are not your own and you can locate, and if necessary report, exactly where they came from. If you have copied and pasted from a web resource, record full details including the webpage’s address (URL), the relevant section name, number, or both, and the date you accessed the resource.
5If a source is key to an assignment (and you are not infringing copyright by keeping a personal copy), photocopy it or print it out. You can now interact with your paper copy, underlining or highlighting key parts, adding notes or questions in the margins, using numbers, letters or some other system to cross-reference between parts of the original and your notes. Alternatively, you could
perform similar actions with an electronic copy of the source and makes notes in database entries within reference management software such as Endnote or Mendeley (see Section 11.3).
6When making notes from sources, and then planning an assignment, devise a system to distinguish your own ideas from those of others. You can do this by writing your original ideas in a different colour, or highlighting or distinguishing them in some other way.
Avoid using the wrong kind of shortcut
Some students, lacking confidence in their own writing, think that the quickest way to write well is to copy and paste from sources, and then tweak the copy, by changing verbs and moving parts of the sentence around. This is not the way to improve your writing. Not only is it plagiarism, but you are not improving your writing ’from the ground up’. Instead, seek to understand what the source material is saying in relation to your argument, jot down key words and ideas in your own words, then put the source material away and write down what you want to say in your own words. Your writing may not be as well expressed as the source material, but it will be your own writing, which you can improve through checking and editing. As you progress through your degree, your writing will develop and your confidence will grow, along with knowing that what you write is a unique expression of you - your own voice.