Plagiarism and the World Wide Web

The World Wide Web (WWW) has become a more popular source of information for student papers, and many questions have arisen about how to avoid plagiarizing these sources. In most cases, the same rules apply as to a printed source: when a writer must refer to ideas or quote from a WWW site, she must cite that source.

If a writer wants to use visual information from a WWW site, many of the same rules apply. Copying visual information or graphics from a WWW site (or from a printed source) is very similar to quoting information, and the source of the visual information or graphic must be cited. These rules also apply to other uses of textual or visual information from WWW sites; for
example, if a student is constructing a web page as a class project, and copies graphics or visual information from other sites, she must also provide information about the source of this information. In this case, it might be a good idea to obtain permission from the WWW site’s owner before using the graphics.

• Strategies for Avoiding Plagiarism

  1. Put in quotations everything that comes directly from the text especially when taking notes.
  2. Paraphrase, but be sure you are not just rearranging or replacing a few words.
    Instead, read over what you want to paraphrase carefully; cover up the text with your hand, or close the text so you can’t see any of it (and so aren’t tempted to use the text as a “guide”). Write out the idea in your own words without peeking.
  3. Check your paraphrase against the original text to be sure you have not accidentally used the same phrases or words, and that the information is accurate.
  • Terms You Need to Know (or What is Common Knowledge?)

Common knowledge: facts that can be found in numerous places and are likely to be known by a lot of people.

Example: John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States in 1960.

This is generally known information. You do not need to document this fact. However, you must document facts that are not generally known and ideas that interpret facts.

Example: According the American Family Leave Coalition’s new book,
Family Issues and Congress, President Bush’s relationship with Congress has hindered family leave legislation (6).

The idea that “Bush’s relationship with Congress has hindered family leave legislation” is not a fact but an interpretation; consequently, you need to cite your source.

Quotation: using someone’s words. When you quote, place the passage you are using in quotation marks, and document the source according to a standard documentation style.

The following example uses the Modern Language Association’s style:

Example: According to Peter S. Pritchard in USA Today, “Public
schools need reform but they’re irreplaceable in teaching all the nation’s
young” (14).

Paraphrase: using someone’s ideas, but putting them in your own words.
This is probably the skill you will use most when incorporating sources into your writing. Although you use your own words to paraphrase, you must still acknowledge the source of the information.

Produced by Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets.shtml