Plagiarism can seem like a scary word, and it can be difficult to understand everything that is considered plagiarism. Most students would never intentionally steal work from another student or the internet. However, plagiarism also includes:
- submitting the same document for more than one assignment
- using a quote or idea from an outside source, such as a website, with no in-text citation and/or reference page listing
While citation can seem involved and complicated, it’s important to remember the purpose of citation. Citing a source shows the reader what information is from an outside source. When presenting an argument or proposal, you want to show the source that supports your argument. Introducing a source helps orient the reader. For example, let’s say you are creating a proposal to implement a specific kind of software. Your in-text citation might look like this:
According to the Journal of Medical Software, “Software X decreases errors and increases efficiency by 73% through streamlining all patient information” (Hernandez, 2013, p.4).
The reader gains helpful information from this introduction. The name of the publication is listed, which saves the reader from having to scroll to the reference page. Also, the year is part of the in-text citation, which shows the currency of the information. For direct quotes, the page or paragraph number is required.
With the above source, let’s look at examples of plagiarism:
I propose that our office implement Software X to stay competitive in today’s market. Software X decreases errors and increases efficiency by 73% through streamlining all patient information.
The lack of citation leaves the reader with questions. Where is the statistic from? Did the writer conduct his or her own research? If the source is listed on the reference page but not in the text, the reader does not know what, if any, information is from the source listed. Even if the source is listed on the reference page, failure to use in-text citation still constitutes plagiarism. A source must also be listed on the reference page to avoid plagiarism. End citation is critical as it allows the reader to go directly to the source.
Tools for Citation
- The APA Guide (located in the FAQ tab) is your best friend for citing sources. Print it, it’s worth the paper! It is organized by type of source. For example, page 11 describes how to cite a source from the Virtual Library both for in-text citation and on the reference page. A sample paper begins on page 20. There are also two presentations on formatting APA in the same place in the FAQ tab.
- Your instructor is also a great resource. If you are unsure of how to cite a specific source, post your question in the “Ask Your Instructor” discussion.
- The Smarthinking tutorial service can provide assistance with citation.
- There are many free plagiarism checkers online.
Avoiding plagiarism not only preserves your academic integrity, but strengthens your role as a professional. Even if APA is not used in your field, having an understanding of how to integrate a source and provide credit allows the reader to differentiate between the ideas of the writer and an outside source. Strong and accurately cited support can make the difference between a proposal being accepted or ignored!