Definitions, and Descriptions, with Related Concepts
Notes for this Chapter, in Regard to Terminology
In this chapter, I am using the following terminology
to simplify the text.† The
refers to any individual that is writing a
paper, even if she is not a student, and is a professional writer.†
The word paper,
refers to any document, article, thesis or book that the student is writing, in
hardcopy or the electronic format.† The term author, refers to the
creator of a source of information, which a student uses for writing a paper.†
I am using the words she and her, and he and him in an
What Are Citations?
In the most general sense of the term, a citation is a
statement that provides the data needed to access a source of information, such
as a book, an article, a website, a video, or sound recording. †Citations
generally include the title of the work, the authorís name, the publisher,
the copyright date, or the date of publication. †With this information, you can
usually find any book, article, video, or sound recording.
A citation might also
include the page number, section number, or chapter, to indicate the source of
quotes or paraphrases, in a student's paper.
Some of the information
mentioned above may not be available for websites, including web-based videos
and articles.† However, the only data needed to access web-based material are
the URLs.† When available, a citation for web-based material may include other
information, such as the title, authorís name, copyright date, or date the
material was created or updated.† This additional information might be useful
for accessing the work from an alternative source, if the original URL is
There are various styles
on how to arrange the data that comprise a citation, such as APA and MLA.† I
will present this information in the next chapter of this e-book. †However, in
the last section of this chapter, there is a list of websites, and a list of
videos from other authors, that cover various aspects of style, including APA
Different Types of Plagiarism
What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is using the words or ideas of one or more
authors in a paper, without acknowledging the source(s).† When a student does
this intentionally, it is obviously unethical.† When a writer does this
inadvertently, it is accidental plagiarism, which is explained below.
What is Accidental Plagiarism?
Accidental plagiarism is inadvertently using the
words or ideas of one or more authors in a paper, without acknowledging the
source(s).† The following four items are probably the most common causes of
The student forgets to provide citations.
When a student does not provide citations, because he mistakenly thinks it is
unnecessary or irrelevant for the writing assignment.
When a student mistakenly thinks the information she obtained from a source is
common knowledge, and does not require a citation.
When a student confuses her own words or ideas, with the materials he studied,
from books and other sources.† This is more likely to occur when a student
takes notes from multiple sources, and uses the notes to write a paper.† It is
even more likely to happen if the notes were created by paraphrasing, or by
copying portions of the text, from one or more sources.
What is Self-Plagiarism
Self-plagiarism is reusing material the student
previously wrote, in a way that is improper or unethical.† For example,
self-plagiarism occurs, when a student writes a paper for one course, and at a
later point in time, submits the same paper for another course, without informing the instructor.† This is
obviously unethical.† Most instructors will probably consider this unethical
even if the paper was rewritten or substantially modified.† Some authorities
might consider it improper even if the student used a portion of a previously
submitted paper, to write a new paper for another course.
Problems of the type
mentioned above, can be avoided by indicating what material was taken from a
previously submitted paper.† This should be done by obtaining the approval of
the instructor in advance, and indicating in your new paper the sentences or paragraphs
that you are including from a previously submitted paper.
Another example of
self-plagiarism is republishing your own work, after you sold the publication
rights to a publisher.† Reselling an article, without informing the buyer that
it was previously published can also be defined as self-plagiarism.
relation to republication can happen accidentally, because contracts involving
the sale of publication rights can very.† For example, there may be
geographical and/or time restrictions for republication.† Some contracts can
prohibit republication permanently.† Sometimes it is permissible to republish
work, if it contains a citation for the original publication.† This can involve
a modified or simplified version of the original article.
The above also applies to
peer-reviewed journal articles, even though the writer usually does not receive
The rules involving
self-plagiarism, and republication of your own work, can vary, and may be
ambiguous.† However, you can probably avoid difficulties, with appropriate
discussions with all relevant parties, before you submit an article for
Paraphrasing and Quoting
What is Paraphrasing
Paraphrasing is rephrasing in your own words the ideas
or information presented by an author.† This can involve the rephrasing of one
sentence, several sentences, one or more paragraphs, or an entire article.†
When you paraphrase, you are required to indicate your source of information,
Based on the way I am
using the terminology, there are different types of paraphrasing.† The first
type, I am calling a word for word paraphrase, which expresses the
original ideas of an author, in approximately the same sequence that the author
used.† The second type, I am calling a non-sequential paraphrase, which
presents the ideas of an author in a different sequence.† A third type, I am
calling a mixed paraphrase, which consists of sentences and/or paragraphs
that are partly paraphrased.† A fourth type, I am calling a paraphrase
summary, which is a summary of a specific source of information.† All of these variations of paraphrasing require citations.
What Are Quotations?
A quotation is an exact
sequence of words, copied from a source, for use in a paper.† A
quotation can consist of a phrase, or one or more sentences or paragraphs. †A
quotation requires quotation marks, or any other acceptable method that clearly
indicates that it is a quotation.† When using quotations, you are required to
indicate your source, with a citation.
†††† In the next chapter of this e-book, I will provide
information on style for short and long quotations.†
Scholarly, and Non-Scholarly Sources of Information
Information Sources in Two Categories
I am dividing information sources into two
general categories, which I am calling scholarly
sources, and non-scholarly
sources.† An understanding of these categories is important for
writing good papers, and they are explained under the following two
What are Scholarly Sources?
Scholarly sources are books, articles, videos, sound recordings, and
other material created by recognized experts in a specific field.† Two
examples are peer-reviewed journal articles and, textbooks.†
Instructors, and others in
the academic community, assume that scholarly sources provide valid
information.† College professors and publishers of peer-review articles often
require citations from scholarly sources.
What Are Non-Scholarly Sources?
Non-Scholarly sources include conventional magazines, popular books,
and articles.† Your own knowledge, personal experiences, preferences, beliefs,
and feelings are also a non-scholarly source of information.† Information from
non-scholarly sources might be unacceptable for certain types of college and
graduate school assignments, and for publishers of peer-reviewed articles.† As
a result, it is important to understand the difference between scholarly and
General and Non-General Sources of Information,
and Ambiguous Cases, in Relation to Citation Requirements
Three Categories of Information, and
In this section, I am dividing information into three
categories, which relate to citation requirements.† I am calling these
categories 1) non-general information, 2) general
information, which is often referred to as common knowledge, and the
3) ambiguous case.† Information in these categories can be found in
scholarly and non-scholarly sources.† This will be clarified, with the
definitions and explanations, presented under the following three subheadings.
What is Non-General Information?
Based on the way I am using the terminology, non-general
information, is comprised of original ideas, which are associated with
specific author.† Sometimes the sources are created by a number of authors, or
an organization.† Over time non-general information, might be widely distributed, and fit the category of general
information (common knowledge within the discipline).
Information that falls
into the non-general category always
requires citations, when used in your paper.† This is because you
will be using the original ideas
that were created by the authors, even if you
are not actually paraphrasing, or quoting.
What is General Information?
(common knowledge) is information that is widely distributed, and is
presented in books
and articles without citations.† General information can be
divided into two subcategories, as presented in the following two paragraphs.†
The first, I am calling common sense knowledge,
which is information that most people are familiar with, in our society.† This
includes the basic information needed to survive, linguistic knowledge, and
skills.† Basic mathematics and reasoning skills also fall under this category.†
Other examples are the names of elected officials, and knowledge of commonly
used tools and products.
second subcategory I am calling, discipline-based information, which is common
knowledge within a discipline. †This is comprised of
terminology, concepts, theories, and other material that is widely known within a discipline, and is
presented in books and articles, without
citations.† This includes well-known historical events, widely
distributed scientific, technical, and mathematical information. †Much of the
material presented in textbooks is in this subcategory, especially if they are
at an introductory level.† However, some
of the information in most textbooks involves non-general information.† This
material can be easily identified, because it will have citations.
The concepts presented in
the above paragraphs provide useful guidelines on when not to provide citations.† However,
instructors or publishers often have their own citation rules for general information (common knowledge).
I never encountered any
instructor that required citations for common sense knowledge, unless the student was
paraphrasing or quoting from a specific book or article.† However, some instructors might require citations
information, (common knowledge within a discipline) even
if you are not paraphrasing or
The instructors that I had
did not want citations for any
type of general information, including the discipline-based information
from textbooks, unless the student was quoting or paraphrasing.† For example,
if a student studied a chapter from a textbook, comprised of discipline-based information, and then wrote about the
theories and concepts he learned, without
paraphrasing or quoting, no citations were required.† However,
if a student studied a journal article, on a new scientific discovery, and
wrote about the material she learned, without paraphrasing or quoting, at least
one citation was required.† This
is because the journal article in this example is non-general information.
Ambiguous Cases, and Citation Requirements
When you are not certain about the necessity of
acknowledging a source, what is the best strategy?† When you are dealing with
uncertainty or ambiguous situations always provide citations.† If you provide a
citation that is unnecessary there usually is no penalty.† However, if you do
not provide citations in the ambiguous case, you might be accused of
plagiarism, if your instructor or publisher believes it is required.
The idea to keep in mind
is authorities may have different opinions about what constitutes general
information.† In addition, when a student initially studies a subject, it can
be difficult to determine what is considered general information, and what is considered
non-general information, which require citations.† Thus, when in doubt
acknowledge the source.†
Another example of an
ambiguous case, involves a paper that was written without quotes or
paraphrases, but the paper appears to have paraphrases from the book you
studied.† If your work might appear to have paraphrases, in the mind of your
instructor or publisher, use citations as if you intentionally paraphrased.
The Utility of the Above Concepts
What is the Primary Purpose of Citations?
purpose of citations is to differentiate, the material the student obtained
from sources, and the material the student created.† Generally, when a student writes a paper, some of the
material is the result of his writing style, arguments, and creative thinking.†
A portion of the material may be from sources that contain common knowledge
that relates to a discipline.† This might not require citations, if you are not
quoting or paraphrasing.† (Some instructors might require citations, for
certain categories of general information.)† The remainder of the material may
be from sources that require citations.† This can involve arguments,
experiments, philosophy, and concepts from one or more authors.† This
information might be presented with quotes and/or by paraphrasing.
This can involve a paper
that contains your own thesis, which you support with information you obtained
from your sources.† It can also involve interpreting or reinterpreting in your
own way the ideas, theories, or concepts, you obtained from your sources.
The idea to keep in mind
is citations are used to distinguish your ideas and words, from the ideas and
words you obtained from your sources.† Your readers, especially instructors,
want to know what ideas and information is your original work, and what ideas
and information came from your sources.
Additional Utility of Citations
A major utility of citations is to provide proof or
credibility for the material the student presents in her paper.† Citations are
useful in evaluating the credibility of any type of work, especially if it is
written by a non-expert.† In such a case, the reader can check the validity of
the written statements, by accessing the sources the student used.
†††† Citations can be used to prove, or reinforce the
studentís thesis and/or sequence of reasoning presented in a paper.† In this
regard, a student can also use their own experimental evidence, formal logic,
or mathematical reasoning to prove their thesis or sequence of reasoning.
The Utility of Paraphrasing
Paraphrasing has practical utility.† Paraphrasing in
notes and in papers can facilitate learning.† When a student paraphrases in a
writing assignment, an instructor can assess the studentís comprehension of the
simplifying technical or scientific material can be used to create an article
that is easily understood by the general population.†
Paraphrasing can be used
as a technique for deciphering the meaning of material that is difficult to
understand.† This can involve text that is poorly written, essays written in an
archaic writing style, and highly technical documents.† This technique involves
writing a paper, specifically to comprehend the difficult material, with a word
by word paraphrase.† This involves an attempt to decipher the meaning of
each word and phrase, with the goal of replacing the poorly understood
sentences, with your own wording.† With this technique, you can initially leave
sections of the material in your paper blank, if you cannot decipher the
meaning.† At a later point in time, you can return to the blank sections, and
attempt to decipher the material.† This process is the type of decoding, and
once part of the material becomes comprehensible, it may be easy to fill in the
sections you left blank.
Commentary and Opinion
The above, especially paraphrasing, quoting, and using
sources of information to write papers, functions as an effective learning
strategy.† However, this learning strategy is overused to the extent that it
may actually interfere with learning and creativity.†
Creativity is a complex
skill, which involves synthesizing original sentences, paragraphs, and papers,
with original ideas.† It does not involve the rephrasing of material created by
others.† It involves presenting original ideas, supported by logic,
mathematical reasoning, experimentation, as well as personal knowledge and
We live in a society that
is the product of creativity, not paraphrasing, and not quoting.† Specifically
the computers we work with, the buildings we live in, and the beds we sleep in,
are all the result of creativity.† Everywhere we look, every product we buy,
the clothes we wear, all represent creativity.† The focus should be on
creativity, which is perhaps easier said than done.