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Zombies are Nietzsche's abyss. They are the Last Men. They are the antithesis of his heroic, creative übermensch. They are parasite nihilists which would expand their numbers exponentially until, having consumed all resources (that is, people), they would slowly decay, rotting away into putrid nothingness.

That is something you do not want to be. Keep that image in your mind. You do not want to be a putrid nothing.

Plagiarism is intellectual zombism. When you're asked to write a paper or story, you're asked to be a creative hero from the Nietzschean perspective. Writing something truly creative and meaningful makes you more of an übermensch. Taking from others, stealing their ideas and claiming them as your own, makes you an existentialist villain, a zombie of the mind (rather than the braaiiiiiinnn).

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Writing Tip #17: Avoiding Plagiarism: Citing

This is how you legally use someone else’s material in your papers. Students make such a big deal out of citing, but it’s an easy process that covers your behind and makes you look smart! The rules are that you must cite after you have paraphrased and after you have used quotes. Cite after each sentence in which you have used another’s idea(s).

If you have made conclusions based on what you have read from the material that you are citing, you do not have to cite that material. Those ideas are yours, and perhaps someone will need to cite you one day! Remember that your professor most likely has access to plagiarism detection software, so don’t take the chance. You are a scholar!

Check your institution’s chosen document formatting style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) for exact guidelines. Usually, citing only entails the author (s) name(s), year of publication, and page or paragraph number for quotes. Why put yourself through the embarrassment and punishment of plagiarism accusations when citing is simple?!

An example of a (paraphrased) citation in APA format is:

“Research shows that the two theorists are correct in their assertions (Simon, 2012).”

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Writing Tip #16: Put it in your own words: Paraphrasing

One of my students asked, “Why do I have to reword it when someone else has already said it better than I ever could?” My answer to her was that if she did not paraphrase she would be stealing the material from the original author! This is called plagiarism. Paraphrasing also shows the instructor that you understand the material. Your paper will be more coherent if you completely understand the information. Remember that your professor is a professional and will know whether or not you have comprehended the subject matter.

Paraphrasing also saves you from adding too many quotes. Using a lot of quotes makes you look lazy and is not acceptable in academic writing. One important rule is that if you choose to use more than two words together verbatim from the author, you must use quotation marks.

Use a thesaurus to find different words that mean the same as the author’s if you’re not feeling particularly brilliant. Citing the paraphrased or quoted material will be your next step, but we will get into that in the next tip.

An example of paraphrasing is:

Original: “Brill and Smith (2010) found that the students performed class work more efficiently directly after the teacher finished a lesson.”

Paraphrased version: “The researchers reported that students more successfully completed classroom assignments just after their teacher concluded the lesson.”

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Writing Tip #9 - Avoiding “it”

We have a tendency to write the way we speak. One of the dangers of this (which is considered sloppy practice by educators and scholars) is the misuse of the word “it.” The misdeed can come at the beginning or later in a sentence.

For example: “It is simple to download an app onto an iPhone.” If you thought that sentence was perfectly okay, you were mistaken! To what does “it” refer? A better way to word the idea is: “Downloading an app onto an iPhone is simple.”

The same blunder can be made later in a sentence: “The dog likes it when you scratch behind his ears.” The word “it” is not needed here. A way to correct this sentence is: “The dog likes to be scratched behind his ears.”   

If the subject is already known, the use of the word “it” as a pronoun is acceptable. For example: “The new car was green. It was also very expensive.” The subject is understood in the second sentence.

Check your writing. If it includes rogue “its,” remove them.

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Keep It Simple

Many freshmen college students try to use lots of words to say something quite simple. Don’t fall into that trap. Your professor will not be impressed. He or she will simply edit out your fine words. Instead, choose quality words that convey your message in the best way possible. Don’t overuse the Thesaurus! Find the word that is best for the idea and use it. Edgar Allen Poe wrote: “Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.” This doesn't mean terrify your instructors. Poe was right in that each word has its own reality. Find the right one. Your writing should be as tight as possible. Read over your paper and dissect the words. Can some words be removed? Can some words be exchanged for better ones? A concise, well-worded paper will impress your professor more than a wordy one.

Here is an example:

A: Let me tell you the reasons why I left you there. I had to throw out all of my papers and start over. Now I can't decide whether or not to stay.

B: Let me tell you why I left. I threw out all my papers. Now I can't decide whether to stay.

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