Research and Plagiarism

Research Techniques and Avoiding Plagiarism

In her article, “Staying Out of Trouble:  Apparent Plagiarism and Academic Survival,” Pat Currie notes “the failure of the traditional and oversimplified view of plagiarism to account for the layers, complexities, and ambiguities embedded in the production of text (370).

Members of the Citation Project also note that the stress many educators place on the importance of avoiding plagiarism and misconceptions or oversimplifications of the meaning of plagiarism contribute to student’s frustration and lack of ability to conduct proper and thorough research.

The Citation Project emphasizes that “copying is not composing,” and believes that if students learn to select meaningful sources, read carefully, and engage with their sources instead of “quote mining,” students will not only avoid plagiarism, they will learn to conduct thorough research and write engaging papers.

The Citation Project also notes the difference between plagiarism, stealing ideas or words and passing them off as your own, and patchwriting, “restating a phrase, clause, or one or more sentences while staying close to the language or syntax of the source.

The Council of Writing Program Administrators also emphasizes the importance of understanding that plagiarism, which they define as “blurring the lines between your ideas and someone else’s ideas or submitting someone’s work as your own,” and the misuse of sources.

Understanding and avoiding plagiarism then can best be accomplished if the students and their teachers understand the complexities of plagiarism and if instructors teach students how to use sources effectively.

John Bean, in Engaging Ideas, outlines several ways for teachers to encourage students in their research process.  Instructors should teach students:

  • How to ask research questions
  • How to find sources and why they are important
  • How to work sources effectively into the paper
    • Using quotation, paraphrase and summary
    • Using signal phrases
  • How to manage sources
    • Summarizing ideas
    • Taking notes
  • How to cite sources
  • How to establish a rhetorical context
    • Role
    • Audience
    • Purpose

(Bean 202-205)

Bean also offers several suggestions for teaching research writing:

  • Stress the research question
  • Require a prospectus
  • Teach the prototypical structure of academic introductions
    • Problem
    • Thesis
    • Overview
  • Teach students how to write academic titles
    • Question
    • Summary of thesis or purpose
    • Two part title
  • Provide models
  • Develop a strategy for teaching library research skills
  • Consider using an exploratory essay that is due before the paper
  • Structure the assignment into stages

(For an example of assignment structure see page 212-213 of Engaging Ideas.)

(Bean 206-212)

Work Cited

Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco: 2001.

Currie, Pat. “Staying Out of Trouble:  Apparent Plagiarism and Academic Survival.” Second-Language Writing in the Composition Classroom. Paul Kei Matsuda, Michelle Cox, Jay Jordan, and Christia Ortmeier-Hooper.  Bedford/St. Martin’s, New York: 2011.

Citation Project. Web. http://citationproject.net/

Council of Writing Program Administrators. “Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices.” Web. http://wpacouncil.org/node/9 2005.


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