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The Essentials of Writing

The Hamilton College Style Sheet

Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a form of fraud. You plagiarize if you present other writers' words or ideas as your own. You must use citations to document all ideas and significant information that are not your own. Failure to do so is an offense against the Honor Code at Hamilton and a serious form of dishonesty anywhere.

Hamilton College's academic honor code is as follows:

By my signature below, I affirm (reaffirm) on my honor that I shall abstain from dishonesty in all academic work. I have read and understand the regulations governing academic conduct and the Constitution of the Honor Court, and I shall abide by their provisions. It is my obligation to take action and to report violations of the Honor Code to the proper authorities.

It is possible to plagiarize ideas from outside sources without realizing that you are doing so if you do not understand the rules for quotation, citation, and documentation.  Using another person's words (direct quotation) without acknowledgment is plagiarism, but so is using someone else's ideas recast into your own words (paraphrase) without acknowledgment.  Plagiarism also results from letting your source's argument become the argument of your paper.  To avoid plagiarism, make sure the reasoning and argument of your paper are your own, and let your own voice speak for you.

You will never plagiarize if you "provide citations for all direct quotations and paraphrases, for borrowed ideas, and for facts that do not belong to general knowledge" (Crews and VanSant, 407); however, the best way to avoid plagiarism is to keep control of your argument.  Include ideas from other sources only when those ideas add information or authority to your argument.  If everything in your paper comes from an outside source -that is, if complete honesty would require you to cite every sentence - you haven't done enough thinking of your own.  If you're unsure whether or not you need to cite a source, consult with your professor.
 

Works cited:

Crews, Frederick and Ann Jessie VanSant. The Random House Handbook, 4th edition. New York: Random House, 1984.

For more detail on avoiding plagiarism, refer to Documentation in Writing and Acknowledging Help from Other People .  Refer also to the links under Sources and Documentation.