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University Writing Center

Plagiarism

How To Avoid It

Plagiarism is the use of another person’s words, ideas, opinions, arguments, and/or thoughts in any form without giving proper credit to the original source.

Quote the source properly

When writing on a topic and you want to use another person’s words or ideas to help you clarify or justify what you are saying, you must give that author proper credit, the words must be used exactly as they have been written, and they must be set off by quotation marks. For the proper format on citing a source, see the style book for that format (MLA, APA, etc.)

Original text:

Some of the most striking and successful books in recent history were clearly born of a writer’s obsession and complete disregard for what, supposedly, sells. (Lerner 18)

Plagiarized quote:

Instead of producing work that they are invested in, some writers target what they write to suit a market to the point of sacrificing their own ideas, passions, and dreams. It’s not true that this molding of material is necessary to be published. Some of the most striking and successful books in recent history were clearly born of a writer’s obsession and complete disregard for what, supposedly, sells. These writers forged ahead with their inspired words without thinking about how they could manipulate the manuscript to make it appealing for publication.

Correctly quoted text:

Instead of producing work that they are invested in, some writers target what they write to suit a market to the point of sacrificing their own ideas, passions, and dreams. It’s not true that this molding of material is necessary to be published. “Some of the most striking and successful books in recent history were clearly born of a writer’s obsession and complete disregard for what, supposedly, sells” (Lerner 18). These writers forged ahead with their inspired words without thinking about how they could manipulate the manuscript to make it appealing for publication.

Paraphrase the quotation properly

Paraphrasing is when you want to use the author’s basic concept or idea, but you don’t want to write word for word what was written. To paraphrase a quotation you simply restate what was written in your own words while maintaining the author’s concept or idea.

Original text:

Some of the most striking and successful books in recent history were clearly born of a writer’s obsession and complete disregard for what, supposedly, sells. (Lerner 18)

Plagiarized paraphrase:

Instead of producing work that they are invested in, some writers target what they write to suit a market to the point of sacrificing their own ideas, passions, and dreams. It’s not true that this molding of material is necessary to be published. There have been books published in recent years that did not conform to the standard of what was popular and proved to be brilliant and successful books. These writers forged ahead with their inspired words without thinking about how they could manipulate the manuscript to make it appealing for publication.

Correctly paraphrased text:

Instead of producing work that they are invested in, some writers target what they write to suit a market to the point of sacrificing their own ideas, passions, and dreams. It’s not true that this molding of material is necessary to be published. There have been books published in recent years that did not conform to the standard of what was popular and proved to be brilliant and successful books (Lerner 18). These writers forged ahead with their inspired words without thinking about how they could manipulate the manuscript to make it appealing for publication.

Summarize the quotation properly

Summarizing is where a long passage is presented in a shorter more condensed form. In a summary, the main ideas and points are presented in the order they were originally given. As with any other source, a summary must also be cited properly.

Original text:

It never fails to surprise me, in conversations with writers who seek my advice as to what they should write, how many fail to see before their very eyes the hay that might be gold. Instead of honing the subjects and form that invade their dreams and diaries, they concoct some ideas about what’s selling or what agents and editors are looking for as they try to fit their odd-shaped pegs into someone else’s hole. There is nothing more refreshing for an editor than to meet a writer or read a query letter that takes him completely by surprise, that brings him into a world he didn’t know existed or awakens him to a notion that had been there all along but that he had never much noticed. (Lerner 17)

Plagiarized summary:

It is always surprising that writers who seek advice from editors as to what they should write fail to see before their very eyes the hay that might be gold. Instead of honing the subjects and form that invade their dreams and diaries, writers concoct some ideas about what’s selling or what agents and editors are looking for as they try to fit their odd-shaped pegs into someone else’s hole. There is nothing more refreshing for an editor than to meet a writer or read a manuscript that takes him completely by surprise, that brings him into a world he didn’t know existed or awakens him to a notion that had been there all along but that he had never much noticed.

Correctly summarized text:

Many writers fail to see what parts of their lives and circumstances would make great material for their writing. Instead, they try and discern what an editor or agent might like so as to put their work into this mold. Editors are not looking for standardized writers and their work, but for quality writing with freshness, originality, and thought-provoking boldness. (Lerner 17)

Lerner, Betsy. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers.
New York: Riverhead Books, 2000.

Updated 1.13.2012