Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Plagiarism – What it is and how to avoid it
Janie Lynn Panagopoulos

After gathering research information, purchasing reference books and reading through everything you have gathered, please be aware of “how not” to use the information you have found. Please know the words you write must be your own, if they are not your words and ideas, you must cite the sources or ask permission to use them.

Plagiarism is becoming a big issue today because of so many sources that are available to us to use on the Internet. Sometimes students don’t even realize they are plagiarizing; they are just putting down what they found. But if you, by chance, use the same words as the author without citing your sources, you are plagiarizing and it is illegal.

If you are a student reading this you might think, this is silly, words are words and there they are right in the open for everyone to use. Well, just because books and the Internet make information and documents readily available, it doesn’t mean you have permission (without proper citation) to use that information – word for word -- and turn it in as your own. That is cheating and considered fraud by the law. The term plagiarism refers to the unaccredited (uncited) use of someone else’s words.

But what if you accidently used someone else’s words? Well, that is illegal too.

As a historical fiction writer, one way that helps me not to use someone else’s words by accident is that I avoid reading fiction. I read only reference material or primary sources to educate myself and try to find the most unique way to present that information in a storyline.

Here are some tips to help you avoid plagiarism in your writing.
1. If you are not the original researcher on a subject, cite the source.
2. If the information is not common knowledge, such as information from a phone book, cite source.
3. Use quotation marks if you are copying the words of another author and cite the source.
4. If you copy information off the Internet, cite the source.
5. Do not use anything from the Internet, without permission of the author, especially if you see a copyright symbol on their work.
6. If you are using a book for research and you need to copy small portions of the information, word for word, cite the source.

Please, plagiarism is easy to do; be careful, aware and responsible when you are writing. Make your work original. Write it in your own words, work hard to make your work your own. There is so much more satisfaction and pleasure making your work your own. That is how you become a real writer.

And, after all, if you are copying someone else’s work, you will always only be a second best writer to that person you are copying.

Next article will cover citing sources.

J. L. Panagopoulos, 06/02/2008 ©

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