George Mason Universityís Honor Code makes it clear that plagiarism is considered a serious violation of the principles of academic integrity and that students found to be guilty of plagiarism can face written reprimands, grade reductions, and even dismissal from the University. What is plagiarism, though? Most students are at least somewhat familiar with the term, but it is easy to be confused about exactly what constitutes plagiarism. This section will help you to become more informed about what plagiarism is and how you can avoid it.
Simply phrased, plagiarism involves using another personís intellectual property—words, ideas, or art—without giving proper credit to that individual. Plagiarism is a form of theft that can range in scope from overt and intentional (e.g. putting your name on a paper you did not write or copying large sections of a book without crediting the author) to subtle and sometimes even accidental (e.g. citing a source incorrectly or failing to cite a paraphrased sentence).
The following is an illustration of textual plagiarism. The phrase in quotation marks is a quote from an actual book, and Examples A and B are excerpts from mock student papers that use the quote as a source.
"The term 'radical modernism' provides a third alternative [between 'high modernism' and 'postmodernism']. Its roots lie in the operations—the 'operatic extremity, operatic tilt'—of language. Radical modernism challenges 'natural,' 'realistic,' or scientistic epistemologies by situating language as an entity with properties of its own rather than as an instrument to be used neutrally or transparently to transmit a pregiven communication. At the same time, however, radical modernism challenges postmodern notions of epistemic randomness by insisting on a fit—albeit in [Nathaniel] Mackey's words, a 'rickety, imperfect fit,' a 'discrepent engagement'—between word and world (Discrepant 19)." from Adelaide Morris's How to Live/What to Do, p. 189
Example A: Looking at the diverse field of poetry that has emerged in the past thirty years, it is tempting to classify one group as radical modernists, who have an approach to language that treats it as an entity with properties of its own rather than as an instrument to used neutrally or transparently to transmit a pregiven communication, even as they recognize some fit between word and world.
Example B: Clearly there are poets who situate language itself as an entity with its own properties and concerns, rather than as some transparent tool to be used for communication. Adelaide Morris, in her book How to Live/What to Do would refer to these writers as "radical modernists," suggesting that such writers, despite their seeming affinity to postmodernist poetries, differ in that they "challenge postmodern notions of epistemic randomness by insisting on a fit [...] between word and world" (189).
Example A is obvious and intentional plagiarism. The author directly copies portions of the original quote without using quotation marks or acknowledging the source of the information. The plagiarism in Example B is less obvious; in fact, it might not be considered plagiarism in many countries outside of the United States. However, since the author of Example B does not clearly delineate which ideas and words in the paragraph belong to the author and which are his or her own, this passage is still considered plagiarism in the US.
Follow these simple steps to avoid unintentionally plagiarizing:
The following is Example C, which demonstrates the correct way to incorporate and cite a source in a paper.
Example C: But there are some critics who would like to draw a lineage other than high modernism and postmodernism out of the modernist poetries of the early twentieth century. Adelaide Morris, for instance, in her book on H.D., How to Live/What to Do, discusses H.D. and Nathaniel Mackey's respective poetries as belonging to a category of "radical modernism," defined by its "challenges [of] 'natural,' 'realistic,' or scientistic epistemologies by situating language as an entity with properties of its own." Using Mackey's language, she goes on to suggest that this "radical modernism" doesn't quite go along with "postmodern notions of epistemic randomness" but insists on a "'rickety, imperfect fit,' [...] between word and world" (189).