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30 January 2009 @ 02:47 pm
To my teacher friends: how to determine plagiarism?  
Okay, suppose I have this basic essay due on, let's say kumquats. Now, I know these days teachers are plagued with people who cut and paste from something like Wikipedia (or whatever) on the Internet. But how blurred is this line? Let's take the first two paragraphs from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumquat

If I did a part of the essay that looked like this, would it be considered plagiarized?

The kumquats are a group of small fruit-bearing trees in the flowering plant family Rutaceae, genus Fortunella. The edible fruit of the kumquat closely resembles that of the orange (Citrus sinensis) but is smaller and is often oval. This is why it is often included in Citrus classification.

The plant that bears the fruit are slow-growing evergreen shrubs, from 8 to 15 feet tall, have dense branches, and sometimes bear small thorns. The leaves are dark glossy green, and the flowers pure white (similar to other citrus flowers) that grow singly or clustered in the leaf-axils. The average kumquat tree produces 80 to 100 fruit each year. The tree can be hydrophytic, and fruit is often found floating near the shore during the kumquat season.

I am just curious where the line is drawn between a direct copy and repeating what you have read. In the old days, when we still had pencils and dinosaurs roamed the badlands, I pretty much did this right out of books, particularly if the subject was arbitrary to any knowledge I would consider useful later on. I copied what I saw, put it in my own words, and passed that in. But often I didn't have words that fit better than what I just read. So I posted those, although, not in huge stretches of paragraphs, just a sentence or two here and there.
Aurienne: spelling errorsaurienne on January 30th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
For the sample you quoted, I'd definitely want to see signal phrases ("According to Wikipedia, ...."), but context also matters. If you're a group of fruit botanists, a lot of that would be common knowledge, and thus no citation necessary, at least for some of the more basic information. In general, it tends to be better to overcite than undercite.

Some useful links:
Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing

Avoiding Plagiarism: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/01/

Thinking Critically about sources: http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/library/rtr.php?module=Judge§ion=Websites&page=01 (because we want you to ABSORB and THINK about the sources given, not just accept them as The Truth)

Lipson, Abigail and Sheila M. Reindl. 'The Responsible Plagiarist: Understanding Students who Misuse Sources". http://media.wiley.com/assets/165/44/jrnls_ABC_JB_lipson803.pdf

(I often encourage my students to cut down their quotes to just 5 words or less -- only the part that they truly can NOT say better than the original.)
Aurienne: spelling errorsaurienne on January 30th, 2009 10:55 pm (UTC)
Also, since I happened to be throwing drafts from my Axia students into the turnitin plagiarism checker (similarity matcher), and here's the result:

57% match (Internet from 11/22/08)
(I included your "If I..." sentence)

That would definitely get you turned in for an Academic Integrity Violation there.

You can also make it look beyond the biggest matches, and we see that the wikipedia excerpt is 34% match of http://www.lilesnet.com

(another thing, at UMBC, we define plagiarism as representing someone else's words or ideas as your own!)
allura: Booksallura on January 30th, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC)

I use this when I write papers, so I can see if what I am saying is a quote from somewhere that I hadn't detected previously...

I also run it to make sure that the quotes I do use directly are being cited by the right source. Oftentimes, when doing massive research papers, the sources can get mixed up when dealing with printouts. This ensures I can go back to the paper and find who actually I am quoting.

I could explain it better, if I didn't have a headache. :(
Darkevilpassion8 on January 31st, 2009 12:07 am (UTC)
From someone who does this for a living....we'd be fired for what you posted. Every IDEA you report that is not your own, independent idea must be referenced in academic writing, UNLESS it is a "common knowledge" thing.

There are a couple of very cheap sites on the web to use to check and see if you've [inadvertently] plagarised, and one or two free ones.

Now, BEWARE -- both you and the students here -- if you use turnitin.com yourself and submit the paper to someone later (like your instructor) and THEY use turnitin.com, IT WILL BE FLAGGED. So if want to run it through before turning it in, DON;T use turnitin. Use copyscape.com (very cheap) -- or www.dustball.com (free)
byronczimmerbyronczimmer on February 2nd, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
My course last semester was supposed to be a heavy writing course, with two hefty research papers (10+ pages, thesis format, etc). The professor had, I kid you not, 5 pages on how to NOT plagiarize and detailed explanations on what it meant to her.

The following is a quote from that Syllabus (EMSE 319-L8, Fall 08 Syllabus, Dr. Julie Ryan):

There is no such thing as “boilerplate” or “standard language” in academia. Students are expected to write their reports themselves, using their own language and their own formulation. If it is necessary to use material from other sources, it is expected (and mandatory) that the standards of academic style and integrity will be followed. This includes glossaries and appendices.
Every student is encouraged to visit these websites for interesting information regarding this issue (links verified August 25, 2008):
• A true story about plagiarism gone awry
• Another story about plagiarism in science
• A Guide to Plagiarism by Dr. C. Barnbaum
• Goucher College’s “Plagiarism-by-Paraphrase Risk Quiz”
• Copyright law, frequently asked questions, and other good stuff
• The Islam Online.net Fatwa on Plagiarism
• The George Washington University Code of Academic Integrity

She also mentioned 'turn it in', which has already been touched on, which she stated rather clearly that she would use to verify plagarism compliance.

As to the original quote - she would've busted you back to the stone age based on the indicated 57% similarity that aurienne got.

Edited at 2009-02-02 09:25 pm (UTC)