plagiarism Plagiarism involves a wide array of writing behaviours and may be achieved by malicious intent or quite by accident. It is therefore important to thoroughly understand this phenomenon in order to effectively avoid it in practice. It can be defined as the misappropriation or misrepresentation of the ideas of another as one's own. However, it also extends to the attribution of these ideas to a person or scholar other than the original thinker or writer. At its most malicious, plagiarism is the use of another's work in part or in its entirety without the permission of the author and without any attempt made to give credit to him or her. This behaviour involves the copying of phrases, sentences, paragraphs or chapters from the work of another and pretending it is your own work. Thorough citation is the first line of defence against plagiarism, but some have even fallen into traps in which plagiarism has occurred under the guise of citation. Several forms of plagiarism exist.
  • Copying
    Word-for-word copying is one of the most glaring forms of plagiarism. To prevent this proper citation methods exist that allow such quotation of the work of others within a paper. The use of direct quotes ("") are imperative whenever an author's exact words are being used within a research paper. In addition to this, the author's name should be cited at the end of the section being quoted and other reference made to point the reader directly to the source of the quoted material. As a rule of thumb, quotation marks must be used whenever the material being copied exceeds three words in number. However, for most writing styles (such as APA, MLA, Harvard and Oxford) it is not customary to quote more than a sentence or two. If it becomes necessary to quote up to a paragraph, block quotations (achieved through indentation) should be used to make it obvious to the reader that all this material is being quoted. Attribution should be made at the end of the paragraph to give credit to the true author. Such attribution also serves to give credibility to the work as one that is thoroughly researched and grounded in theory.
  • Misuse of Ideas
    Many persons consider plagiarism to be limited to the word-for-word copying of text from a given source, yet it goes far beyond this. The use of paraphrasing as a tool for summarising the ideas of an author can become a form of plagiarism that is just as serious as copying if credit is not given to the writer for the ideas being appropriated. Even when ideas are being synthesised within the paper, it is imperative that attribution of the sources be performed at the end of the particular sentence or at least at the end of the paragraph. If two or more sources consulted by the writer convey the same idea, all these should be cited both parenthetically and in the reference page. When in doubt, it is always best to err on the side of caution.
  • Misrepresentation
    The misrepresentation or borrowing of ideas from a particular source might also be a method of plagiarism if credit is not given to source from which it is taken. Plagiarism can also be achieved by giving credit to the wrong source, so proper note taking is also crucial in the avoidance of this pitfall.
Unfortunately, students often feel the need to copy and paste because of a lack of the time necessary to go through all the steps of the writing process. Research analysis and synthesis takes precious time that is usually already scheduled to be spent on jobs or other extra-curricular activities. Other students who fall into plagiarism traps do so inadvertently. They are unaware of all the ways in which plagiarism can be achieved and, for instance, may paraphrase the work of a researcher without seeing the need for further attribution of the idea to that researcher.
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