Plagiarism: Big trouble that’s easy to avoid

It’s really a common tragedy, and it plays out like this:

Jane Etudiante-Jones has a paper due and she has procrastinated. Or maybe she hasn’t really procrastinated, but things have come up that prevented her from getting the paper done, sports; Greek events; work; you know, life in general.
Now, she’s looking at a whole bunch of assignments, some major social obligations, and her calendar and realizing that that she needs to bust her hump to get it all done.

So the hump-busting commences with a marathon session at the library, maybe some coffee, and a laser-like focus on her paper. Miss Etudiante-Jones is able to find a whole lot of articles and websites that are just perfect for her work, it’s looking like the paper is a slam-dunk. So, she starts writing, copies and pastes several sections from articles into her draft, knowing that she can come back tomorrow and get the citations right, but it feels really good to have pulled together a solid-looking draft. Now it’s on to the next one, this paper is harder and she needs to take more time on it, so the first paper gets back-burner-ed, I mean why not? She already has a draft, right? Do you see where this is going?

Deadlines are amongst the sneakiest of all the monsters created by the civilized world, so when they begin popping up in Jane’s breakfast cereal, and in her e-mail, and in her “OMG, it’s REALLY DUE!” Jane does what she meant to do in the first place, she polishes up her draft and turns it in. Here’s where tragedy takes hold. She has forgotten exactly what information is from which sources, and which is her own. The paper seems to have taken on a mind of its own, and the clock is ticking, ticking, ticking, also some tocking. So, our heroine musters the best of the forces, puts together a plausible-looking works cited page, adds as many parentheticals as she can remember, and sends the paper on its merry way.

Then the letter arrives, the one informing her that she is being brought up on charges of plagiarism, Holy Cow! What happened?

What happened is that Jane did not cite her sources as she went along, hoping that her memory would be good enough to carry her along. It wasn’t. The best (and easiest) way to manage your citations is to go it as you build your paper. Sure, it may take an extra minute (or less) for each bit of material you quote, but it’s worth it. It’s so worth it. The databases in the Fintel Library collection all provide tools that pre-format citations, making the works cited page a no-brainer to create, and that only leaves the in-line citations for the student to create in a few deft keystrokes.

Save yourself the trouble, and please, please, please cite as you go.


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