means, quite simply, stealing from the writings or ideas of another. It is one of the most important issues students must contend with as they learn to conduct research. The trouble comes when you face an assignment that requires you to find the writings and ideas of another and incorporate them into your own work. On the surface, some assignments may seem like invitations to plagiarize, especially if they require the use of secondary sources. However, research should never be plagiarism. Research should function only to support ideas of your own.
The key to avoiding plagiarism is to understand the concepts behind academic documentation
. Documentation involves citing sources you use in order that ideas and words that are not yours are clearly attributed to their rightful owners.
Quoting and paraphrasing
One method of incorporating research into your own work is through direct quotation. This means including another person's ideas word-for-word in your document. Direct quotation may be used to import the ideas, facts, or authority of another author into your own work.
You don't want to rely too heavily on quotation, however, since you can often end up surrendering your own voice to those you've quoted. Also, always be sure to quote exactly
. When you quote directly, you need to choose only limited passages to include. In a four or five page research paper, you do not want to include an entire paragraph of quoted material. From that paragraph you would need to choose a sentence or couple of sentences that best say what you want to say in the least amount of space.
Always introduce your quotation to give your reader some sense of where it comes from, what the authority of the source is, or perhaps some context. For example:
Following the last round of international trade talks, Leslie More, of the U.S. Delegation on Trade, noted that "Canada's supply management structure makes it difficult for U.S. farmers to compete in the world market" (56).
Notice that the example names an author, a source, or qualifications instead of simply giving the quotation. Now your reader has a good sense of why these people are worth quoting.
Sometimes it is more useful to paraphrase information than to quote it directly, especially if you need to cover a lot of ground but do not have a lot of space in your own paper to do so. Paraphrasing involves putting another author's ideas in your own words. Paraphrasing still requires that you document the original source. Otherwise you've crossed the line from paraphrasing to plagiarism.
Also, paraphrasing should not just be a process of taking another author's sentences and replacing each key word with a synonym and then calling it your own. You need to reshape entirely the passage you are paraphrasing. This means rewriting from top to bottom, and can be an opportunity for you to rephrase a long-winded paragraph down into one or two high-impact sentences.