Research paper season is coming in hot. Are you avoiding plagiarism like the plague?
Experts at the Green Library say that plagiarism can come to bite students in the behind — intentionally and accidentally.
FIU News caught up with Stephanie Brenenson, graduate studies and scholarly communications librarian, and Glenn Hutchinson, director of the Center for Excellence in Writing, who offered some tips for students as they prepare to begin projects.
Know what plagiarism is.
Plagiarism is defined by the Office of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution as: “use and appropriation of another’s work without any indication of the source and the representation of such work as the student’s own.”
Brenenson and Hutchinson agree that intentional plagiarism is rare, though it does happen. Unintentional plagiarism is what well-meaning students should look out for as they start working on papers.
“Unintentional plagiarism is much more common,” Hutchinson said. This can include paraphrasing, general ideas, graphs and photos without attribution.
It’s important to cite every direct quote, paraphrase and idea and to use the correct citation format.
Don’t be afraid to cite too much.
Students should not feel embarrassed or like it’s overkill to have in-paragraph citations in most sentences, Brenenson said. In fact, it’s necessary.
“If it’s something that’s new to you, and you didn’t come up with that thought, don’t feel like it’s an embarrassment to cite it,” Brenenson said. “It’s the rule.”
Professors may ask students to add more of their own thoughts to drafts, Brenenson said, but that doesn’t mean they should cite less. This is where the Center for Excellence in Writing can help.
“Writing is a process, it takes time,” Hutchinson said. “When you’re working on research, you need to give yourself time to do the research, think about it, make connections, write it and revise.”
Tutors at the center are available by appointment on its website, writingcenter.fiu.edu.
Natalia Valentin, a freshman psychology major, said she has her own ways of keeping track of her citations. As she takes notes on articles, she organizes her notes by each source to keep track of which information comes from where.
“For keeping up with research, write [your sources] down,” Valentin said as she typed on her laptop in a quiet corner of the library. “It’s easier to keep up if you have a list.”
When it’s time to write, she double-checks her paper to be sure she didn’t miss any citations.
“Proofread everything. At first you might be typing and not know what’s going on, but if you go back and read it again you will see what you need to cite,” she said.
Seek a little help.
Brenenson and Hutchinson recommended RefWorks, a citation manager that helps students keep track of sources and format citations properly.
RefWorks can be used as a “virtual file cabinet,” Brenenson said, for students who often find themselves with 20 tabs open in a browser window or a page full of email links. But the program is not an end-all, be-all, she added.
“None of the citation managers are perfect, because they have to use the data that goes into them, but it’s a huge time saver,” Brenenson said. “You, as a student, have to be responsible for double-checking the details of a citation format.”
Andres Chiribogas, a junior history major, said he uses citation managers such as EasyBib, because they can help regardless of if he’s using Chicago Manual of Style, MLA or another citation style.
“I use them to keep track of my sources,” said Chiribogas, as he prepared research for a history presentation using a citation manager. “It gives you an option to export the whole thing and [the bibliography] is already in alphabetical order.”
The writing center also has books full of citation formatting guides for students to use when they’re ready, and librarians can help students in person.
“If you want help, you can ask for a little help — at the desk, on our chat, you can call a librarian liaison for any subject area — or you can come in and ask for a lot of help,” Brenenson said.
Librarians for general research and specific subject areas are available at the library. Students can stop by the research desk on the second floor for guidance. Students can make appointments at the Center for Excellence in Writing through the website.