BCIT Student Guide to Plagiarism
This digital story is intended to help students understand plagiarism, a form of copyright violation. Students are encouraged to discuss the topic with their instructors to gain a clear understanding.
Your instructors have talked about it, you’ve probably seen news stories about it and you know that there are serious penalties for doing it, but do you really know what plagiarism is? This is the BCIT Student Guide to Plagiarism. So what is plagiarism exactly? Plagiarism is using other people’s ideas without citing them or deliberately trying to pass off other people’s work as your own. At BCIT and other academic institutions, students face serious penalties for plagiarizing, even if they do an unintentionally. Of course, you don’t want this to happen to you!
Avoiding plagiarism is actually pretty easy: just make sure you cite all your source materials. Citing means that you acknowledge you are using other people’s work. And that can be any kind of work: words, ideas, instructor’s notes, images, data, graph, anything. The same rules apply if you’re paraphrasing. Paraphrasing means changing the wording or modifying the content in some way. For example, if the source material says: “For some astronomers, particularly those seeking to reconcile data with doctrine, it was unclear where the sunspots were located” by Tufte on page 19, and you write: “Some astronomers were not sure of the location of the sunspots and this made it difficult to reconcile scientific data with religious doctrine”, this is a paraphrase of the original. You will still have to cite where you got the information from. Your citation would look something like this: “For some astronomers, particularly those seeking to reconcile data with doctrine, it was unclear where the sunspots were located” (Tufte, 19). If you are quoting the exact words, you need to put quotation marks around the words like this. So whether you are paraphrasing or using a direct quote, you must always cite your sources.
Is that all? Not quite. Before you begin a research project, you’ll need to ask your instructor what kind of citation style they want you to use. Citation styles are really important. They help you organize and present your citations in a consistent way. There is APA, MLA, Chicago, AMA and many others. Your instructor will probably have a preference for one of these. To cite a source properly, you need the name of the source, the author, the date of publication, the web address, things like that. The information you need to format a correct citation depends on the source of the information and the citation style you are using. For example, websites are cited differently than books, and the APA style looks a little different than the MLA style. The library has a short online guide to most popular styles to get you started. Yay! The library also has citation style manuals in their book collection, or, if you use them a lot, you can even buy a copy for yourself.
Just remember: the best way to go about research is to write down the source of every piece of information that you might use. It is way easier to try to make a note of your source while you are doing your research then try to retrace your steps later. That’s a frustrating waste of time. Keep track however you like, but figure out some kind of system to record your sources right from the start right.
We’ve looked at the what and the how of citations, but really, what’s the big deal anyway? Plagiarism, whether it’s done intentionally or not, is cheating. It is stealing other people’s work and making it look as though it’s your own. At BCIT and other academic institutions, academic honesty is a really important thing. In fact, BCIT has its own policy about plagiarism that it takes very seriously. In order for your credential to mean something, it has to be earned with integrity, and this means no plagiarism. But wait, does your work have to be all your own ideas? Not at all. It’s really important to find out what others have to say or what others have created in the subject you are studying. Then you can build on that work to come to your own conclusions or to create something unique. In fact, it’s essential that you find work previously done in your subject area, evaluate its usefulness and incorporate those ideas into your work. The important piece is to acknowledge where you found the ideas that you’re building on.
Now you’re ready to begin research at BCIT. Good luck! This has been the BCIT Student Guide to Plagiarism.