Plagiarism, in its simplest form, is merely literary theft. Plagiarism occurs when a writer duplicates another writer’s language or ideas and then calls the work his or her own (Plagiarism 2). Some times, one may plagiarize with little knowledge that he/she is doing so. Other times, one may feel the need to plagiarize because he/she waited until the last minute or one may not want to take the time to research correctly. Because of the many sources available to students, plagiarism has significantly increased within the last several years.
In fact, in 2009, eighty percent of college students admitted to plagiarizing at least once (Plagiarism Statistics 2). There are several ways to prevent plagiarism, such as knowing when to site common knowledge, paraphrasing, and always citing correctly. Common knowledge is something that is generally known, however there is no clear boundary on what is considered common knowledge (Common Knowledge 1). Common knowledge can also carry the sense of “communal” knowledge—it is community information that no particular individual can fairly claim to own (Writing Center 1).
Knowing when to cite common knowledge can be tricky. One way to tell whether or not a bit of information is common knowledge or not, is whether or not it is stated in five or more sources. So, if it’s known to educated people, or can be easily looked up, or appears in many sources, it is likely to be “common knowledge” and so does not need to be cited (Writing Center 2). However, if the information is not general knowledge to the educated public, then a proper citation is necessary.
Because knowing when and when not to cite common knowledge can be an uncertainty, it is always best to just cite the information or ask a professor. A paper should only consist of about ten percent of direct quotations. Therefore, in order to keep verbatim quotes to a minimum, one can paraphrase. Paraphrasing is “ones own rendition of essential information and ideas expressed by someone else, presented in a new form” (Driscoll 1). Essentially, paraphrasing is simply summarizing.
However, it is a more concentrated, detailed summary on a single, specific topic. Reasons for paraphrasing may be to make sure one fully understands what the text says, or to use as expert evidence for a point one is trying to make in his/her own argumentative text. One must fully comprehend the entire passage or quotation and then write down his/her own rendition of the passage while making it clear that someone else’s ideas are being used. Plagiarism, despite the fact that it’s immoral and unethical, is an ongoing roblem in education facilities today. Although the statistics for the number of students who have admitted to plagiarism are staggering, there are a few ways one can make sure that he/she does not plagiarize. Understanding common knowledge and paraphrasing allows one to know when or when not to cite work. Authors work hard and deserve to have their work recognized and not stolen. With this in mind, remember to always give credit where credit is due.
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