This is a sticky topic. Our department has caught students who have plagiarized, and we will catch more in the future. It pains us every time, not only because it's so easy to avoid, but because everybody knows that plagiarism constitutes a flagrant violation of academic honesty. Remember, you are your choices.
Every student, at some point, will find themselves sitting there late the night before something is due, staring at a resource, trying to process the information through bleary eyes and figure out how to use it in a paper. For a moment, it will be very tempting to just paste a paragraph in the paper, change a few words here and there, and move on. That much closer to the word requirement, and that much closer to done. Plus, if it's online, it's got to be a good source, right?
Shortcuts will either get you in trouble, or shortchange your understanding. That might not sound like much of a consequence, but take shortcuts on the foundation of a house or on measuring where the studs go in the walls, and the house you build will have serious problems later.
In particular, students struggle with the question of how similar a passage can be to the original before it is considered plagiarized. This question is based on the false premise that something becomes your work if you change some of the words. Plagiarism.org explains this very clearly:
In short, when writing an essay, there’s no time in which you should be altering the words of a source in hopes of making them original. Anything copied from the source should be quoted and cited accordingly and all other writing should be as original as possible.1
Explore Plagiarism.org for a deeper discussion of these topics.
At Soldotna High School, plagiarized work will be penalized. This can result in a total loss of credit, as well as disciplinary action. Penalties depend on the severity of the infraction, whether or not it is repeated behavior, and the judgment of your teacher and your administrator.
All types of projects (papers, posters, presentations, speeches, etc.) are subject to the plagiarism policy in the Soldotna High School Department of Social Studies.
The purpose of strict plagiarism policies across the scholarly world is not just to get students in trouble. The purpose is to build knowledge. Avoiding plagiarism is hard if you're trying to avoid learning or working, but it's easy if your goal is to actually research, analyze, and process information yourself. When writing and research are a creative process rather than a regurgitative process, plagiarism is easily avoided.
Some assignments require you to compile and report information without your own analysis. Expect to cite more heavily in these cases, and if you are concerned about crossing lines, consult with your instructor well before the assignment is due.
If your assignment requires a thesis and/or your own analysis and thinking, you will avoid plagiarism best by applying yourself to the task of analysis. Ask yourself questions as you research, guide further research with those questions, and ensure that you propose a solution to a historical argument in your work based on what you have learned. Prove your own point, not someone else's. If your point matches the point of one of your sources pretty closely, spend some time refining their point using additional sources.
Use deep sources. Instead of finding the top result on Google for your research prompt, skimming it, and picking out a couple of pieces, spend some time actually reading scholarly sources. Articles about your subject from journals and books will serve you the best. With the additional depth of research material comes quality in your final product.
Most importantly, if you find yourself trying to figure out how to avoid this problem by changing work that you have not produced, you have committed plagiarism and need to try again.
All classes are more fun and rewarding when you put your own work in.
- 1. "How similar is too similar?," Plagiarism.org, February 27, 2018, https://www.plagiarism.org/blog/2018/02/27/how-similar-is-too-similar