Writing Well and Avoiding Plagiarism

– [Instructor] After all this talk about types of plagiarism, and why graduate students copy sources, let’s discuss ways that
you can write well, and avoid plagiarizing your
sources in the process. How does WMU require students
to handle source text? Well, the WMU student catalogs
give explicit guidelines for handling certain textual
choices that you may make with regards to your sources. First, direct quotations
must be identified by quotation marks or
appropriate indentation. Paraphrases or rewritten summaries of material from your
sources must be accompanied by prompt acknowledgement of the source; meaning a reference, citation or footnote. Finally, any borrowed facts or information gained in reading or research which is not common knowledge, and which did not come out
of your own research work must be acknowledged. As far as reusing a significant amount of copyrighted material
in your own writing, you must have explicit
permission from the rights holder if you use long quotations, or
more than a page and a half. Survey instruments,
tests, or questionnaires, which can be common in the education and psychology fields. Pictures, charts, graphs, or cartoons previously published by others. In addition, as stated on
page 28 of the university’s Guidelines for Preparation of Theses, a copy of each copyright permission letter must be submitted to the graduate college with your thesis or dissertation. So, it’s not enough to get permission. You must submit those permission letters to the graduate college. This is an important aspect of the thesis dissertation writing process that students don’t often realize or pay attention to. Now, why is it a good idea
to document your sources? First, it will make it easier
for readers to consult them if they are interested in following up on what you found. Also, you give credit
to the original author. You strengthen your argument
by showing that your argument is resting on a solid foundation of previously scholarly research. Documenting your sources
is also a way of showing that you have mastered the
voices of the discipline. In other words, that you can
use other people’s thoughts to help underpin your own argument. And finally, documenting
the sources you’ve used will help you avoid
accusations of plagiarism. When it comes to summarizing or paraphrasing material
from your sources, keep the following suggestions in mind. Try to understand the idea
as completely as you can. You can not do an
adequate job paraphrasing or summarizing an idea if you do not completely understand it. Pretend you are explaining
the idea to someone who has never read about it before. How would you go about doing that? And, look at several sources
that discuss the idea, not just one. So you can see different alternatives for expressing that same idea. For most scholarly ideas and concepts, there are multiple ways
of writing about them. More importantly though, go
beyond just paraphrasing. One professor’s take on this
process was the following; “Internalize and spit back
out in your own words. “Provide your own take on it. “A personal reaction,
not just paraphrasing.” In other words, have opinions of your own. What do you feel about
what you are writing about? Be critical of your sources. Interact with them in your writing. When you are writing a literature review, you are not just regurgitating the work of other researchers. Your literature review
should be selective. You are selectively highlighting
certain researchers, and not others to make
a point, and argument. But, to do this, you
have to have an argument to start out with, and this is where I think some graduate students drop the ball. The way composition researcher
Diane Pecorari puts it; “In the absence of clear
direction for the text, “it is easier to integrate
material from a source “in its original form; “the source author’s
choices will not clash “with the objectives of the new text, “because those do not exist or
are only weakly formulated.” In other words, If you don’t really know what your argument is, it is much easier to just
plop down a block of text from another author and make it fit, simply because your own writing is almost nonexistent in this context. To continue with her quote; “By contrast, the more
experienced writer… “wants to highlight those
aspects of the source “which are most relevant to the
argument in the citing text, “and it becomes, therefore,
more difficult to “adopt the language of the
source as well as its ideas.” So, if you do have a strong
argument of your own, you can’t just copy a bunch
of text from another author and make it fit; because the needs of your
argument will require some analysis and shaping of the text, and information from your source. My main point in this video is that you should think carefully about what you want to say. There are very few instances
in scholarly writing, where you really need to
paraphrase a whole sentence or a whole paragraph. Usually you will just need to refer to the base conclusions of someone else’s idea or theory. Not regurgitate word for
word their basic argument. If you find yourself wanting to regurgitate something
word for word from a source, stop and ask yourself again. What do I want to say here? Why is this researcher’s idea important? How does it fit my argument? What argument am I trying to make? Is repeating most of
this author’s reasoning and words really the best
way to represent this idea? Often, you will find
that it is not necessary to repeat an author’s argument
at length or verbatim. So, how can you improve how you work with and synthesize sources, so that you do not
plagiarize or patch write? Here are some more good tips. First, take handwritten notes. It is harder to copy and
paste text from your sources when that text is in your own handwriting. Make sure to explicitly mark text that is from sources with quotation marks and page numbers in your notes. If you respond to that text in your notes, mark your responses so
that you can differentiate your thoughts from the source text. You may want to try concept mapping. This can help you work with ideas and less with verbatim
quotations from your sources. For example, you can do
a concept map by hand, like this example. Writing and drawing relations using lines and lists clustering concepts together. Or you can create concept
map like this outline in Microsoft Word or some
other word processing software with citations, quotations,
and page numbers. Plus your own paraphrases
of ideas from your sources. In other words, use any method
that gets you thinking about your sources at the level of ideas, not at the level of individual sentences and paragraphs from your sources. To the extent that you can get away from seeing your sources as good quotes, you will be less likely to
patch write and plagiarize. Now, let’s also talk about
keeping track of your sources, because that can also be
a source of frustration and minor plagiarism for students. Use a program like RefWorks or EndNote to manage your citations and your notes about your sources. This will enable you to
format your bibliography, and keep you from getting overwhelmed with the number of sources
you have to deal with. The university libraries
offers the RefWorks software, available from the main library homepage. In addition, there are a
number of other products out there on the market from
pay products like EndNote to free software like Mendeley and Zotero. Dr. Rebecca Moore Howard says that, “Successful writing does not
come from observing rules, “but from repeated, mentored practice.” The only way you will get better is to be constantly reading
and summarizing sources. View the writing you do
for your other classes, and the note taking you do as you read your articles and books as practice for your
thesis or dissertation. And find a mentor, or several mentors. Peoples whose writing you respect enough to review your summaries. Find exemplary articles and books to read. Ask for recommendations
from your advisors. Analyze the structure of the articles and book chapters you read rhetorically. What are the arguments? How are they laid out? This is how you teach yourself
to write in your discipline. And finally, trust yourself. It can be relatively easy
to find another researcher who can, and has expressed the same idea, better or more fluently than you. But, you have the writing skills you have. You need to have more
confidence in your own writing, and just need to trust yourself to do the best job you can, even if it is not perfect. You will get better through more practice reading and writing. Students are much more prone
to reusing verbatim text from their sources when
they lack confidence in their own abilities
to write about ideas or past research in their own words. I would like to close
this particular video with the following quote
by David Bartholomae. “It may very well be that
some students will need “to learn to crudely mimic
the ‘distinctive register’ “of academic discourse
before they are prepared “to actually and legitimately
do the work of the discourse, “and before they are sophisticated enough “with the refinements of tone and gesture “to do it with grace or elegance.” It will take time and practice before your academic writing
sounds truly professional. Hopefully, the more you write,
the less likely you will be to depend upon the distinctive
phrases of your sources, and the more you will rely
upon your own argument to lead you where you need to go.

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