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Information from the Internet:
A common mistake is thinking that, because Internet information is free and often appears to have no ‘owner,’ it can be used without giving credit. However, our definition of plagiarism — “... using others’ ideas and words without clearly acknowledging the source of that information” (Writing Tutorial Services, 2004) — makes no mention that those ideas and words must be in a published source or a professional source or a well-known source or a valuable source. In fact, the source makes no difference what-so-ever. The important point is that when you use ideas or words that are not your own, no matter what the source, you must give credit.

Informal and non-fixed sources:
A similar issue is using ideas and words from informal and non-fixed sources. As casual as much of the information on the Internet is, at least it exists in a fixed media that allows other people to find and read the same piece of information that you used. Information from a conversation or a telephone call, unless you should happen to record it, can never be revisited by another person. Letters and email are another source of information that, while fixed, are generally not available to other people. Other transient sources might be information heard on the radio, television or at a lecture or seen in a museum or art gallery. In all these cases, you are required to give attribution for ideas and words you take from those sources. Even if it is not possible for someone to find, hear, or observe the original source, you are still responsible for providing credit.

Relationship of plagiarism with copyright:
People sometimes confuse plagiarism with copyright. Copyright is concerned with whether you have the right to access and use a work. Plagiarism is about whether credit has been given for ideas or words taken from that work. For instance, it may be perfectly fine, as far as copyright goes, to copy a few paragraphs from a book but, if you put these words in your paper without crediting the source, you will have committed plagiarism. The bottom-line is that plagiarism has nothing to do with copyright. You are obligated to acknowledge your sources whether or not their work is copyrighted.

Self plagiarism
Self plagiarism refers to the use of your own work, or a substantial portion of it, in another course than the one for which it was originally written. While you are not stealing an idea from someone else, it is still considered dishonest unless you have obtained permission from your instructor to reuse the material.

No author
Sometimes people assume credit only needs to be given when there is someone, an identifiable author, to credit. However, giving credit simply acknowledging that the source of the ideas, words, etc. that you used came from somewhere outside your own thoughts. It is the source of the idea, words, etc. that receives the credit, not an individual. You need to cite even if the source doesn't have an author you can identify.

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Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University. (2004, April 27). Plagiarism: what it is and how to recognize and avoid it. Retrieved February 5, 2008, from  http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/plagiarism.shtml




Last updated 10/22/2004 by Sue Thompson, Toni Olivas
Cal State San Marcos Library