Wikipedia:Plagiarism

Plagiarism.jpg

Plagiarism is taking credit for someone else's writing as your own, including their language and ideas, without providing adequate credit. [1] The University of Cambridge defines plagiarism as: "submitting as one's own work, irrespective of intent to deceive, that which derives in part or in its entirety from the work of others without due acknowledgement." [2]

Wikipedia has three core content policies, of which two make it easy to plagiarize inadvertently. No original research prohibits us from adding our own ideas to articles, and Verifiability requires that articles be based on reliable published sources. These policies mean that Wikipedians are highly vulnerable to accusations of plagiarism, because we must stick closely to sources, but not too closely. Because plagiarism can occur without an intention to deceive, concerns should focus on educating the editor and cleaning up the article.

Sources are annotated using inline citations, typically in the form of footnote (see Citing sources). [3] In addition to an inline citation, in-text attribution is usually required when quoting or closely paraphrasing source material (for example: "John Smith wrote that the building looked spectacular," or "According to Smith (2012) ..."). [4] The Manual of Style requires in-text attribution when quoting a full sentence or more. [5] Naming the author in the text allows the reader to see that it relies heavily on someone else's ideas, without having to search in the footnote. You can avoid inadvertent plagiarism by remembering these rules of thumb:

  • INCITE: Cite a source in the form of an inline citation after the sentence or paragraph in question.
  • INTEXT: Add in-text attribution when you copy or closely paraphrase another author's words or flow of thought, unless the material lacks creativity or originates from a free source.
  • INTEGRITY: Maintain text-source integrity: place your inline citations so that it is clear which source supports which point, or use citation bundling and explain in the footnote.

Plagiarism and copyright infringement are not the same thing. [6] Copyright infringement occurs when content is used in a way that violates a copyright holder's exclusive right. Giving credit does not mean the infringement has not occurred, so be careful not to quote so much of a non-free source that you violate the non-free content guideline. [7] Similarly, even though there is no copyright issue, public-domain content is plagiarized if used without acknowledging the source. For advice on how to avoid violating copyright on Wikipedia, see Copyright violation. For how to deal with copying material from free sources, such as public-domain sources, see below.

Plagiarism on Wikipedia

Forms of plagiarism

Plagiarism is presenting someone else's work – including their language and ideas – as your own, whether intentionally or inadvertently. Because it can happen easily and by mistake, all editors are strongly advised to actively identify any potential issues in their writing. Plagiarism can take several forms.

Free and copyrighted sources

N Copying from an unacknowledged source
  • Inserting a text— copied word-for-word, or closely paraphrased with very few changes—from a source that is not acknowledged anywhere in the article, either in the body of the article, or in footnotes, the references section, or the external links section.
  • The above example is the most egregious form of plagiarism and the least likely to be accidental.
N Copying from a source acknowledged in a poorly placed citation
  • Inserting a text— copied word-for-word, or closely paraphrased with very few changes—then citing the source somewhere in the article, but not directly after the sentence or passage that was copied.
  • This can look as though the editor is trying to pass the text off as their own. It can happen by accident when inline citations are moved around during an edit, losing text-source integrity. It can also happen when editors rely on general references listed in a References section, without using inline citations.
N Summarizing an unacknowledged source in your own words
  • Summarizing a source in your own words, without citing the source in any way, may also be a form of plagiarism, as well as a violation of the Verifiability policy.
  • Summarizing a source in your own words does not in itself mean you have not plagiarized, because you are still relying heavily on the work of another writer. Credit should be given in the form of an inline citation.

Copyrighted sources only

N Copying from a source acknowledged in a well-placed citation, without in-text attribution
  • Inserting a text— copied word-for-word, or closely paraphrased with very few changes from a copyrighted source—then citing the source in an inline citation after the passage that was copied, without naming the source in the text.
  • Here the editor is not trying to pass the work off as their own, but it is still regarded as plagiarism, because the source's words were used without in-text attribution. The more of the source's words that were copied, and the more distinctive the phrasing, the more serious the violation. Adding in-text attribution ("John Smith argues ...") always avoids accusations of plagiarism, though it does not invariably avoid copyright violations. See Respecting copyright below for more on using copyrighted sources.

    Be cautious when using in-text attribution, because it can lead to other problems. For example, "According to Professor Susan Jones, human-caused increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide have led to global warming" might be a violation of NPOV, because this is the consensus of many scientists, not only a claim by Jones. In such cases, plagiarism can be avoided by summarizing information in your own words or acknowledging explicitly that while the words are from Jones, the view is widespread.

Avoiding plagiarism

For avoidance of plagiarism of text copied from compatibly licensed copyleft publications and public domain publications, see also the section below: Copying material from free sources

You can avoid plagiarism by summarizing source material in your own words followed by an inline citation, or by quoting or closely paraphrasing the source, usually with "What Constitutes Plagiarism?", Harvard Guide to Using Sources, Harvard University:

NNo in-text attribution, no quotation marks, no change in text, no inline citation

  • Source: Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, The MIT Press, 2001, p. 14.
  • Source text: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."
  • Wikipedia text: Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence.

N No in-text attribution, no quotation marks, no change in text, inline citation only

  • Source: Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, The MIT Press, 2001, p. 14.
  • Source text: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."
  • Wikipedia text: Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence. [8]

N No in-text attribution, no quotation marks, text closely paraphrased, inline citation only

  • Source: Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, The MIT Press, 2001, p. 14.
  • Source text: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."
  • Wikipedia text: Political transitions brought about by the end of authoritarian government, democratization, or political change also make states prone to violence. [8]

YesY In-text attribution, quotation marks, no change in text, inline citation

  • Source: Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, MIT, 2001, p. 14.
  • Source text: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."
  • Wikipedia text: Michael E. Brown writes: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence." [8]

YesY In-text attribution, quotation marks, most of the text properly paraphrased, inline citation

  • Source: Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, The MIT Press, 2001, p. 14.
  • Source text: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."
  • Wikipedia text: Michael E. Brown suggests that political change, such as the move from an authoritarian government to a democratic one, can "make states particularly prone to violence." [8]
  • Note: Even with in-text attribution, distinctive words or phrases may require quotation marks.

YesY In-text attribution, no quotation marks, text properly paraphrased, inline citation

  • Source: Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, The MIT Press, 2001, p. 14.
  • Source text: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."
  • Wikipedia text: Michael E. Brown suggests that political change, such as the move from an authoritarian government to a democratic one, can provoke violence against the state. [8]

YesY No in-text attribution, no quotation marks, text summarized in an editor's own words, inline citation

  • Source: Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, The MIT Press, 2001, p. 14.
  • Source text: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."
  • Wikipedia text: Political change increases the likelihood of violence against the state. [8]
  • Note: If the sentence "political change increases the likelihood of violence against the state" is distinctive in some way (if, for example, it represents an unusual position), it may require in-text attribution (Michael E. Brown suggests that ...) despite being an editor's own summary of the source material.

Respecting copyright

Regardless of plagiarism concerns, works under copyright that are not available under a compatible free license must comply with the copyright policy and the non-free content guideline. This means they cannot be extensively copied into Wikipedia articles. Limited amounts of text can be quoted or closely paraphrased from nonfree sources if such text is clearly indicated in the article as being the words of someone else; this can be accomplished by providing an in-text attribution, and quotation marks or block quotations as appropriate, followed by an inline citation.

Translating

If the source is in a language other than English, the contributor may be under the mistaken belief that the act of translation is a sufficient revision to eliminate concerns of plagiarism. On the contrary, regardless of whether the work is free, the obligation remains to give credit to authors of foreign language texts for their creative expression, information and ideas, and, if the work is unfree, direct translation is likely to be a copyright violation as well. [9] [10]

What is not plagiarism

Charles Lipson states that all plagiarism rules "follow from the same idea: acknowledge what you take from others. The only exception is when you rely on commonly known information." [11] Plagiarism is less a concern where the content both lacks creativity and where the facts and ideas being offered are common knowledge. Here are some examples where in-text attribution is generally not required, though you may still need to add an inline citation:

  • use of common expressions and idioms, including those that are common in sub-cultures such as academia; [12]
  • phrases that are the simplest and most obvious way to present information; sentences such as "John Smith was born on 2 February 1900" lack sufficient creativity to require attribution.
  • simple, non-creative lists of information that are common knowledge. If the list is drawn from another source (i.e., it is not common knowledge), or if creativity has gone into producing a list by selecting which facts are included, or in which order they are listed, then reproducing the list without citing its source may constitute plagiarism. [13] [14]
  • mathematical and scientific formulae that are part of the most basic and general background knowledge of a field, E = mc2 and F = ma (where, even in these cases, for deeper reader understanding, a citation may be best practice);
  • simple logical deductions.