5.2 Is there such a thing as accidental plagiarism?
I've heard people claim that they accidentally committed plagiarism. How could you accidentally cheat, and what's the difference between accidental plagiarism and intentional plagiarism?
Accidental Plagiarism might occur when you do not really understand how to properly paraphrase, quote and cite your research. Not knowing the proper method of documentation can result in students misattributing someone else's words or ideas as their own. In other words, if you have paraphrased research from a book or an article or a website, but you do not include an in-text citation, the reader will assume that the idea and/or words are yours, not someone else's. Even if you include the name of the source in your reference list at the end of the essay, the missing in-text citation makes it plagiarism.
It is your responsibility as a student to understand when and how to cite and reference sources and to understand the rules of whichever citation style you are required to use.
Intentional Plagiarism is the act of deliberately using and presenting someone else's work as your own original work. This would include buying papers online, as well copying & pasting information from sources directly into your essay or assignment without quotation marks, in-text citations and/or references. However, whether a person intentionally or unintentionally plagiarizes, both will have consequences. Not knowing is not an excuse.
How can I avoid accidental plagiarism?
Take good notes. Make sure to write down all the bibliographic information (including URLs and page numbers) and keep the information with your notes. If you copy word-for-word from the source, use quotation marks so you know that the words are not your own and make note of the page number. If you paraphrase information, you don't need quotation marks, but still make note of the page number and complete bibliographic information so you can easily find it again if you need to.
Create your bibliography or reference list as you work to help keep track of where you found your information. Some people like to use different colours of ink or highlighting when writing to help keep track of what you think and what other researchers say. (Don't forget to create a legend so you remember what each colour represents.)
But how could I intentionally plagiarize someone else's work? Wouldn't it be obvious to me that I was stealing someone else's words or ideas?
Not necessarily. Being confused or disorganized can easily lead to accidental plagiarism. For example, not knowing or understanding how to paraphrase or use quotations properly, how to cite and reference sources, what the rules are for a specific citation style, and so on, means that you can easily make a mistake.
Not knowing the proper method of documentation can result in misattributing credit. Also, it's very easy to just forget where parts of the information you are gathering came from and what parts of your notes are in your own words and what sections are properly paraphrased. It is your responsibility as a student to understand and to know when to cite and reference sources and to understand the rules of whichever citation style you are required to use.
Remember, accidental plagiarism is just as serious as intentional plagiarism. They will both result in sanctions.