Commitment to Academic Excellence
As a student at Hudson Valley Community College, you should know that this school is committed to academic excellence. As a result, the college has a strong policy against plagiarism. When students plagiarize, they threaten the integrity of the entire institution, and they devalue the legitimate intellectual accomplishments of all students.
The College’s policy defines plagiarism in this way:
“Plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty that is considered a serious offense and carries severe penalties ranging from failing an assignment to suspension from school. You are guilty of plagiarism any time you attempt to obtain academic credit by presenting someone else’s ideas as your own without appropriately documenting the original source.”
The policy goes on to explain that sources have to be properly documented and that “ideas” are not limited to “words” or “phrases.” The realm of ideas may also include examples such as statistics, computer programs, artwork, theories, and photographs among others. The entire policy with its three levels of violations and consequences is included at the end of this brochure.
Documenting Your Sources
Why do you have to document your sources? You have to document your sources for two major reasons: (1) You have to give credit to those who provided the information; and, (2) you have to help your readers find your sources. If you fail to document your sources, you are essentially stealing that information and implying that you are the original source. In addition, by providing your reader with the author, title, and publication information, you make it easy for the reader to find and use the same information. Do you have to document everything in your paper? No, you don’t have to document common knowledge, and you don’t have to document your personal opinion.
Common Knowledge. Common knowledge is generally referred to as information that everybody knows or information that can be found easily in a variety of sources. In general, if you see certain information in three different sources, the information does not have to be cited. If you have any doubts whatsoever, though, about whether to cite certain information, you should cite your source.
Personal Opinion. If you are writing an informative paper, your instructor may not want your personal opinion in the paper. However, if you are writing a persuasive paper, you will need to express your opinion, but you don’t need to cite yourself as the source. Naturally, once you state your opinion, you should back it up with information from your sources.
Using Quotations, Paraphrases, and Summaries
Quotations. Most students know they can use a quote from a source, but many students go too far and quote too much. As a general rule, you should use quotations sparingly. According to Diana Hacker, author of The Bedford Handbook, you should use quotations only for “special purposes: to use a writer’s especially vivid or expressive wording, to allow an expert to explain a complex matter clearly, or to let critics of an opinion object in their own words” (561).
Paraphrases. When you paraphrase, you take your source’s information and put it in your own words, using approximately the same length. So, if you paraphrase three sentences from your source, your paraphrase should also be three sentences. The mistake many college writers make is they simply change one or two key words. That’s not a paraphrase; that’s plagiarism. To paraphrase properly, you should try to do so from memory without looking at the original source, and, then, you should check that your words and phrases don’t resemble the source too closely (Hacker 560 and 573).
Summaries. When you summarize, you pick out the key points or arguments and highlight them in a much shorter format. You might, for example, summarize a two-hour movie in one paragraph or a 300-page novel in 500 words. Summaries are especially useful when you have to give the reader some background information before moving on to an in-depth analysis. Unfortunately, some students feel that if they don’t quote directly from a source, they don’t have to cite that source. That’s not true. Generally, whenever you paraphrase or summarize, you need to cite the source in a parenthetical reference and in a list of sources at the end of the paper. If you have only one of the two, you are still guilty of plagiarism. Note, too, that when it comes to plagiarism, ignorance is not an excuse.
Parenthetical References and a List of Sources
Parenthetical References. With parenthetical references, the information about the source is located in parentheses at the end of the sentence where the quotation, paraphrase, or summary is located. Generally speaking, the key information that needs to be included in the parenthetical reference is the author’s last name or, if a source has no author listed, the title of the work. In certain situations, too, the date and the page number may also be required. If readers want to know more about the source indicated in the parenthetical reference, they can refer to the list of sources, which includes more specific information about the author, title, and publication information.
List of Sources. This is a complete list of all the sources you referred to in your research paper. These sources are arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name – or by the title of the source if no author is listed. The first line of each source must start on the left margin, but any subsequent lines must be indented five spaces. This somewhat unusual indentation format makes it easy for the reader to scan down the left margin to seek a particular source.
How to Avoid Plagiarism in Your Term Papers
- Start early and work consistently throughout the term. “Term” papers, after all, are meant to be completed over the course of the semester and not in the one or two weeks before the paper’s deadline.
- Keep thorough records of all your sources. When possible, make a copy of the original source, or, if you’re searching through a computer database, print a copy of the document even if you’re not sure you’ll use it in your paper.
- Take good notes and clearly differentiate among direct quotes, paraphrases and summaries, and common knowledge and personal opinion. Otherwise, you may leave out quotation marks when they’re called for, or you may neglect to cite a paraphrase or a summary. Some students use different colored highlighters to make the distinctions even more obvious.
- Prepare your parenthetical references and your list of sources as you write your paper. On your first term paper, you may find that documenting the in-text citations and compiling the final list of sources are the most difficult aspects of the whole paper. You can avoid this frustration and stress if you learn to document correctly as you write the paper, and you’re less likely to plagiarize if you’re conscientious about documentation throughout the entire research process.
- Proofread everything thoroughly. Be meticulous about proofreading the text of your paper. If you misspell a few words or have some grammatical errors, you will probably lose only a few points. However, if you neglect to include necessary quotation marks, or if you fail to cite your sources properly, you could be found guilty of plagiarism and fail the assignment completely.
- Consult your Handbook. Everything you’ll need to know about writing a research paper and avoiding plagiarism is included in the Handbook you’ll use for your Composition courses.
- Get help. You can always ask your teachers for help or go to the Learning Assistance Center on the lower level of the Library or to the Writing Classroom in the Campus Center.
Writing and Research Center
This is the writing webpage for the Hudson Valley Community College Learning Assistance Center.
Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
This is one of the finest online sources of information about writing.
Written by a college professor in Maryland, this site provides a wide range of basic advice about writing.
Frequently Asked Questions about the MLA Style Manual
The style of the Modern Language Association (MLA) is used in most English courses and some humanities courses.
Frequently Asked Questions About APA Style®
The style of the American Psychological Association (APA) is used in
most social science courses.
The Chicago Manual of Style Online: Manuscript Preparation
The style of the Chicago Manual (CM) is used in some humanities courses.