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In this video, undergraduate Kaydee West from the University of South Florida in Tampa speaks about her perspective on plagiarism and the importance of writing originally, a.k.a. doing one's own work. In particular, as an Interdisciplinary Natural Sciences major, she points out that there is often confusion in labs on whether it is acceptable to copy methods sections and lab results. 

Watch this short video to hear a student's view on how reusing text in lab assignments may be problematic (2:53 minutes):

Is Copying Methods Sections on Lab Assignments Considered Plagiarism?

  My name is Kaydee and I go to the University of South Florida in Tampa. I am a senior majoring in Interdisciplinary Natural Sciences and I’m going to graduate in May.

  I started using WriteCheck during my freshman year of college. At my university they make a really big deal out of plagiarism; it’s not something they take lightly at all. And so, I think frankly, I was a little bit scared by all of the presentations saying, avoid plagiarism or you’re going to get a double F, which means not only do you fail but everyone is going to know it was because of academic dishonesty. So, I started using WriteCheck just to make sure I wasn’t inadvertently plagiarizing. No one wants to plagiarize, especially not unintentionally. I found WriteCheck and have been using it since.

  I really liked the results that I got from WriteCheck! I thought it was really helpful to determine what areas I needed to work on in my writing.

  The place where I think I see the most potential for plagiarism or where I have seen it has been in lab assignments. I’ve been in biology lab, chemistry lab, physics lab, people think that it’s okay to copy methods or results from others and that’s where I’ve seen a lot of issues. Methods are something that can come into question a lot because there could be a hundred people in a lab doing the exact same thing the exact same way. The instructors have been very clear, though, that in anything you turn in, it has to be your work. So you can’t share your method section with your group or your lab partner because then it’s not your work. It’s a group effort and they’re looking for individual work on these assignments. So it’s really important to do your own work on those sections.

  Plagiarism: it really does rob you of the opportunity to learn because even if you make it all the way through college and you get all the way through whatever amount of education you’re going through, and you plagiarize your whole way and never get caught, eventually that’s going to catch up with you -- because you haven’t learned the skills for one thing, while your peers have been learning by doing their own work, and you are going to reach some point where you’re not going to be able to copy anyone else. There will be some point where you have to do your own independent work, and if all you’ve ever done is copy from other people, you’re really robbing yourself of the opportunity to develop the skills that everyone else has acquired.

  The only advice that I could offer to other students would just be to not be afraid to stand up for yourself and say I’m going to take responsibility for my own work and say, I’m sorry but I’m not comfortable sharing it with you, because like I said, at the end of the day it’s you who has to be happy with your work and your results, and it’ll be you who gets your degree.


OK or Not? Copying content that everyone knows


Videos, Writing Skills

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Knowing how to avoid plagiarism is essential, whether it's writing an academic paper or a blog post. Copying-and-pasting text from the internet can be precarious, but if you know how to correctly navigate three specific areas, you will reduce the risk of being involved with unintentional plagiarism. What are these three areas? Watch this short video to find out what English Professor Renee Nimtz recommends students learn about when it comes to attributing others' work. Watch the short video (2:35 minutes):

3 Ways to Avoid Plagiarism -- Summary, Paraphrase and Quote

There is so much talk about plagiarism these days! But how do you actually avoid plagiarizing? Three ways to save yourself from plagiarizing are summary, paraphrase and quote.

Let’s start with summary.  This is one students are pretty familiar with, but that doesn’t mean it’s so clear cut.

A summary is a condensed version of the original text that highlights the main or key ideas in YOUR own words.  So if you were going to summarize a chapter, it might be a page.  If you were going to summarize a paragraph, it might be a couple of lines.

The second way to avoid plagiarism is with a paraphrase.  A paraphrase is typically the same length as the original text but written in YOUR own words, like a summary. So a paraphrase of a page would be about a page; a paraphrase of a paragraph would be roughly the same length as the original paragraph.  The real trick to paraphrasing is making sure you use your own words and NOT using the words from the original source.

A quote seems so easy because you merely take the original text, put it in quotation marks and put it into your paper.  Well, not so fast.

Students tend to think that they should quote the most in the paper.  And why not? It’s the easiest, and tends to make the paper longer, but by quoting someone, you are saying something about the text.

You are saying that the way the person wrote the text him or herself is so powerful and so impactful that if you were to rewrite it in any way, it would lose it’s impact and value.  If that is not the case, you should summarize or paraphrase it.  You should actually quote the least.

That means that if you put “” marks around text, it better be really powerful language.

So with summary, paraphrase and quote, for which of these do you need a citation?

This is a trick question; they all need a citation.  If you borrow any ideas or language from someone or a text (or a Youtube video), you must include a citation.

A good rule of thumb for summary, paraphrase and quote, is to 1. Introduce the ethos of the author or original text, 2.  include the summary, paraphrase or quote, 3. Cite the original source and 4. Discuss the borrowed material and how it relates to the remainder of your point/paragraph or paper.

Writing with summary, paraphrase and quote is a skill that requires practice and care to get it right, but remember, there are only these three ways to borrow outside sources and each needs a citation.


Google vs Google Scholar [video]

Why isn't Wikipedia a reputable source? [video]



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Any time an idea is borrowed from a source—like a newspaper article, a YouTube video, a tweet, or a class lecture—that source needs to be cited. But that's not all. The way citations are written is also important. Not only are there different citation formats to follow, like APA or MLA, but the citation of different source types, whether a blog post or a speech or a photograph, also vary, even if just slightly, e.g. capitalization. In this video, English instructor Renee Swensen explains citation styles and documentation, essential knowledge for any writer to have in order to avoid plagiarism. Watch the video:

How to Cite YouTube & Other Sources from Turnitin on Vimeo.


Citation Styles and Documentation: Avoid plagiarism by learning how to cite YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and scholarly journals

MLA, APA, CMS, CSE etc.  If you have heard of these before, you have likely been asked to write a paper using them.  What do these acronyms stand for?

Let’s talk about your different courses for a moment.  You might have an English class, a psychology class, or a history class.  Different courses are housed under different fields of study and different fields have different groups who meet to decide how scholarly writing in that field should be presented.

For example, English falls under the Modern Language Association, psychology falls under the American Psychological Association.  These associations have manuals that explain how papers should be written in those disciplines.

CMS is called Chicago Manual of Style, which a history course might call for or CSE for Biology and other science courses.

The trick with these documentation styles is realizing you don’t have to memorize the style, you simply need to follow the guidelines, and use these guidelines as a reference.  That means you might need to look this information up each time your write an academic paper.

Guidelines will specify how the paper should be laid out, such as spacing, margins, headers, page numbers, etc.  It will also detail how to document any outside sources you used in the paper, such as in-text citations, footnotes, works cited pages or reference pages.

Knowing how to lay out the paper according to the documentation style is one thing, but knowing how to cite sources is quite another, and usually the most challenging for students.

Let’s walk through a practice source and look at how to break that source down to determine what kind of citation I need.  We’ll use APA as an example.

The first thing you need to do when looking at a source, especially one you accessed online, is determine what type of source it is.

This source gives you some clues.  It is a double-sided page, has an abstract or summary, a list of references, the title of the source, the main source may even have “journal of…” or looks like it has a specific audience of scholars.  This is definitely an academic journal.  You need to be able to differentiate between a journal, article in an online newspaper or a blog.

In order to cite the source correctly, you need to look up the type of source in a reference manual, so you can see what information is required in the citation.  These manuals often contain model citations for you to follow.

For a journal article I need to be able to match the information in the citation example with the information for my particular source.

A citation for a journal article looks like this:

Author. (year of publication). Title of article. Title of Academic Journal. Volume (Issue), pages.

Author’s last name and initials, the year it was published, the title of the articles (not in capital letters), the title of the academic journal italicized, the volume number, the issue number in parentheses, and the page numbers.  Luckily, I don’t have to memorize all this, just match my source with this sample.

Cherrier, H.

The author of the article is Cherrier, H. The year, (2006).  The title is consumer identify and moral obligations in non-plastic bag consumption: a dialectal perspective.  The journal title is International Journal of Consumer Studies, the volume is 30 and the issue is (5), with the page numbers 515-523.

An MLA citation for this journal would have some differences, such as capitalized titles, quotation marks, etc., so you need to reference up your required documentation style to get it right.

Now you have to remember that if you borrowed any ideas from a source, like a YouTube video you watched, Twitter, Facebook or a class lecture, you have to cite that source in your paper.

How to cite YouTube

APA style:

Author, A. A. [Screen name]. (year, month day). Title of video [Video file]. Retrieved from http://xxxxxxxxx

MLA style:

Last name, First name. OR Username. "Title of Video." Title of Site. Name of institution or publisher, Day Month Year of publication. Medium. Day Month Year of access.

Just remember that you need to take the time to get your citations right to avoid plagiarism.

See how to cite other common sources, including: An interview; speeches and lectures, a painting, sculpture or photograph; films or movies; sound recordings


Citing and Quoting

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Undergraduate at Montana State University uses plagiarism checker every semester to receive feedback on citations and to increase confidence in her papers that "everything is spot on" Featuring: Diann Quaranto, undergraduate at Montana State University pursuing a liberal arts degree

See why Diann takes the extra step to check her papers:

Straight “A” Student Uses Plagiarism Checker to Avoid Mistakes| Writecheck from Turnitin on Vimeo.

Read along:

K: What’s your area of study and what’s the official name of the institution and for what degree?

D: It’s a bachelor’s degree, a liberal arts degree. Montana State University at Bozeman. I just finished the first year. When you do a lot of online study programs, there’s a lot of writing.

K: Do you use WriteCheck because you wanted to improve as a writer or to ensure that you aren’t plagiarizing or you have seen plagiarism at your school? What was it that drew you to WriteCheck?

D: Well, the thing that drew me in was the plagiarism issue, and the paraphrasing check. One professor I just finished up with this past spring was huge on (avoiding) plagiarism and there were a lot of people in the class whose work was on the verge of plagiarism. So, I used WriteCheck in order to insure myself. I didn’t want to put all this work into these papers and then somebody comes back and says, “that’s plagiarized.”

K: What would you say to people who don’t think plagiarism is an issue?

D: Yes, it is an issue. I see plagiarism as an issue because everything has advanced so much, there’s so much writing out there. I honestly think it is foolish not to use a service like this. If I can be confident that everything is spot on, that’s worth the money. I don’t like plagiarism because it’s very important that people’s ideas are documented to the people that came up with those ideas. You can accidentally plagiarize. So, my point is, why wouldn’t you do the smart thing and run your papers through and check it out. The $7 was worth the peace of mind to know that that paper was 100% in my words. And believe it or not, I ran it through the system and it came back with one small error–and it just on sentence structure. No plagiarism whatsoever. And I ended up with an A.

D: I think WriteCheck is an entirely useful service, and a good value. I thought it came back with excellent feedback. By the way, I got A’s on all those papers. I just wanted to be sure (that I hadn’t made any mistakes), so that’s why I used it. Now this semester coming up, it’ll be the first place I go when I finish them (papers) up.


Plagiarism: Learning the Hard Way Video

Ways to Avoid Plagiarism



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When you do a search on Google on your paper topic, do you typically get the most relevant, useful search results? Probably not. Find out why Google Scholar may be the better option when doing research for your paper in this fast-paced, yet eye-opening video by educator Renee Swensen Nimtz. Renee previously discussed how to research a paper topic using a university's library and other resources. In this video she reviews the difference between doing a search on Google and Google Scholar, and demonstrates how to search for scholarly resources. Knowing how to how to search like a scholar will help you become a scholar!

Watch the video:

What is the difference between Google and Google Scholar? from Turnitin on Vimeo.

How to Use Google Scholar for Research

You may have heard that Google is not the best “first stop shop” in doing research, and I agree, but I’m going to change things on you a bit.

Google can allow you to search like a professional researcher through Google Scholar.

There are some major differences between Google and Google Scholar.

Google, for example, ranks its hits using many factors, but one factor is by popularity, so you can imagine that some websites, like Wikipedia and other commercial sites, are more popular than others, like an academic journal article or university website. So you are less likely to get the scholarly source you want from the regular Google search.

Google Scholar, on the other hand, offers scholarly research that is prioritized, according to Google, “the way researchers do, weighing the full text of each document, where it was published, who it was written by, as well as how often and how recently it has been cited in other scholarly literature.” Wikipedia, in other words, won’t be one of the first hits on the list.

Google scholar, in Google’s own words “provides searches for articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.”

When you do a search in Google Scholar and locate sources, you may still need to visit your library database to find the sources that are published yet not offered full text online.  You may find some of the sources are available for you to download.

As a student writing for an academic audience, you should be using academic scholarship as sources for your writing.  Library databases and Google Scholar are a great place to start your search and becoming a scholar yourself.

Related videos

How to get started writing a paper: I'll Just Google It

Why isn't Wikipedia a reputable source?



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Incorrect usage of commas is one of the biggest writing mistakes made by students, according to educator Summer Dittmer. The way we speak often differs from the way we write. Commas may be the biggest culprit of making a run on sentence seem like it could be written correctly. Are you using commas correctly? Watch the video to find out!

About the Writing No-No video series: Ms. Dittmer created a series of videos based on her experiences in helping students and adults learn how to improve their writing skills. These videos provide quick yet valuable lessons on what NOT to do when writing an academic paper.

Also watch the #2a Writing No-No: Punctuation - Difference between colons and semicolons, and the #1 Writing No-No: Never using 1st or 2nd person.

Watch the video (1:59):

WriteCheck No-No #2b: Punctuation - Comma Splice from Turnitin on Vimeo.

Comma Splices:

In the 1st part of Writing No-No #2 I covered semicolons and colons.  Today I’ll cover another big punctuation problem: comma splices. Many of my students have never heard of them, but they use them all the time! So what in the world are they?

A comma splice is basically a run-on. It occurs when two independent clauses are incorrectly connected by a comma. Here’s an example of a run-on:

The coffee shop was packed they were giving away free lattes.

Here’s and example of a comma splice:

The coffee shop was packed, they were giving away free lattes.

Which one is correct? Trick question! Neither of these examples is correctly written. Adding a comma still doesn’t help bring together the two separate thoughts in that sentence.

What is the correct punctuation for that example? Well, you can use a period, like this:

The coffee shop was packed.  They were giving away free lattes.

A semicolon, like this:

The coffee shop was packed; they were giving away free lattes.

Or, you can use a PCS.  No…not the computers…PCS stands for Periods, Coordinating Conjunctions or Semicolons. Remember these 7 coordinating conjunctions: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet and So

Here’s an example of how these conjunctions can correct a splice:

SPLICE: I had so much homework, I managed to get it done.

CORRECTED: I had so much homework, yet I managed to get it done.

OR: I had so much homework, but I managed to get it done.

Be careful though; when you use coordinating conjunctions, the meaning will change depending on which one you use.

Here is a HINT: When you need a comma splice cure, remember those 7 coordinating conjunctions in one of these ways: FANBOYS, FONYBAS or SOFYNOB

Thanks for listening, and good luck with your writing! Stay tuned for my next Writing No-No.


Common grammar mistakes


Writing Skills, Videos

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