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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown
Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Plagiarism: What Is It and How to Avoid It

In the Citation Guide I explain how to reference The Pequod website if you use its contents in your own work or writing. This page explains the nature of plagiarism in more detail, gives some real-life examples and stories of how plagiarists do get caught, and - more positively - suggests why correct referencing and citation can be helpful for your own work, rather than a chore.

What is Plagiarism?

The word plagiarism derives from Latin roots: plagiarius, an abductor, and plagiare, to steal. Stealing is precisely what you are doing if you re-use work derived from The Pequod without acknowledgement; such reproduction without citation will be taken as a breach of my copyright terms.

Most colleges and universities have severe penalties for students caught plagiarising. At the university at which I teach, for example, students are warned that if plagiarism is discovered in their thesis or dissertation, examiners are expected to fail the candidate and that the student will not be allowed to resubmit their work.

How Can Plagiarism Happen?

Plagiarism can happen in one of two principal ways:

"A friend of mine had frantically finished his essay a few hours before the deadline. He lay down for a nap, and woke just five minutes before the essay needed to be submitted. He swiftly printed off his essay, and handed it in. A week later, he received a letter accusing him of plagiarism. Horrified, he checked his computer to find that, in his haste, he had printed and submitted his draft version - without references - rather than his final version. His mark was struck off, and instead of getting a distinction he got a pass."

Both types of plagairism are to be avoided and may well carry a similar penalty if you are caught. Clearly the latter is less devious, but it is also the more easy to slip into almost by accident or by poor preparation. Almost every time I write an essay or article, I find myself quoting or paraphrasing the works of other people without referencing them, because I have unconsciously absorbed their ideas and concepts. In my proof-reading, therefore, I carefully check that I have cited everything that needs it; if in doubt, provide a citation. Providing extra information may not look great, but it is better than being a plagiarist.

Finally, compiling an accurate list of works cited is a mark of your humility, since it acknowledges fully that no work is ever, except in a very small but vital proportion, the spontaneous and unique insight of its author.

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Do Plagiarists Get Caught?

The short answer to this question is: yes. As the creator of The Pequod, I have uncovered or been told of numerous cases where a student has been found to have plagiarised my work (see the box out below for a real life example of a plagiarist who was found out by his teacher).

People plagiarise because they think they can get away with it. After all, teachers have a lot of marking to do, and will not have read every book or article that you have. But in my experience as a university teacher, it is not difficult to spot plagiarism:

Why Correct Citation Makes Everyone a Winner

One of the reasons people plagiarise is that they think it devalues the quality of their own work if they use too many quotations from other people. But this is not necessarily a bad thing; all good scholars admit that their work is only ever building on the existing achievements of others, and that therefore scholarship is not just about the finished product but about the dedicated researching and reading that preceded it.

Whilst referencing might seem a pain, you can turn it to your advantage. Even if you do quote lots of other writers, you can still show that you have done sound study; you can also use references to improve your own skills, and so increase your ability to write independently. Here are some reasons why good citation can help you, as well as simply being a legal and academic convention.

Referencing can be a pain, requiring extra effort on your part. Hopefully, this page has shown that plagiarism is a serious offence which will get caught and penalised, but that providing accurate citations can help you intellectually, as well as just being required by your teachers.

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Your Comments on "Plagiarism: What Is It and How to Avoid It"

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This page was published on June 15, 2008 | Keywords: plagiarism, citation, copyright, referencing

The content of this website is Copyright © 2016 using a Creative Commons Licence. One term of this copyright policy is that plagiarism is theft. If you use information from this website in your own work, you should use the correct citation.

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