Did You Plagarize?  4 Examles to Help You Know
Taken from the UNC Writing Program's Staff Manual, 1998-99


Example 1

From Michael Ventura's "The Tools of an Animal":

Different tools shape words differently, the way different tools build furniture and shoes
differently. . . . Pen and paper are slow and messy, of course. Modernity loves speed and
claims to hate mess. But speed is only a value when it's useful, and it isn't always useful.
Slowness can be useful too. Using an instrument that doesn't let you go too fast can make you
pause where you might not have, and a pause at the right time can change or even save your
life, not to mention your work.

From a student's essay:

Most writers have come to depend on computers, and they can't imagine writing a paper without
one. But, in an essay titled "The Tools of an Animal," Michael Ventura reminds us that
sometimes computers aren't the right tool for a writer's task, sometimes using an instrument
that doesn't let you go too fast can make you pause at a crucial point_and this pause may save
your work from failure (5).

Works Cited

Ventura, Michael. "The Tools of an Animal." The Independent Weekly 20 April 1994: 5.

1. Explain why there is or is not plagiarism in the passage from the student's essay.

There is plagiarism in the passage because the student borrows Ventura's exact words without
using quotation marks.

2. Identify where, if at all, the student uses attribution.

The student uses attribution at the beginning of the second sentence: "in an essay titled `The
Tools of an Animal,' Michael Ventura. . . ."

3. What documentation style is the student using in this essay?

MLA
 



Example 2

From William Zinsser's On Writing Well:

Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next, and
it's not a question of gimmicks to "personalize" the author. It's a question of using the
English language in a way that will achieve the greatest strength and the least clutter.

From a student's essay:

An important quality of good writing is "aliveness" (Zinsser 6). To achieve aliveness, a writer
must avoid gimmicks and instead use the English language to achieve great strength and a
minimal amount of clutter.

Works Cited

Zinsser, William. On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction. 3rd. ed. New York:
Harper, 1985.

1. Explain why there is or is not plagiarism in the passage from the student's essay.

There is plagiarism because the student's second sentence paraphrases from Zinsser without
documentation. The student's paraphrase also borrows too closely from the original.

2. Identify where, if at all, the student uses attribution.

The student does not use attribution in this passage.

3. What documentation style is the student using in this essay?

MLA
 



Example 3

From James L. Kinneavy, William McCleary, and Neil Nakadate's Writing in the Liberal Arts
Tradition:

The goal of learning to write "in the liberal arts tradition" is the well-rounded writer_a
person with training and experience in a range of writing tasks, from term papers to poems and
stories.

From a student's essay:

The authors of Writing in the Liberal Arts Tradition believe that "the goal of learning to
write `in the liberal arts tradition' is the well-rounded writer" (xiii). A well-rounded
writer, they explain, is one with training and practice in a variety of writing tasks (xiii).

Works Cited

Kinneavy, James L., William J. McCleary, and Neil Nakadate. Writing in the Liberal Arts
Tradition: A Rhetoric with Readings. New York: Harper, 1985.

1. Explain why there is or is not plagiarism in the passage from the student's essay.

There is no plagiarism in this passage. The student's paraphrase in the second sentence is
appropriately attributed and referenced.

2. Identify where the student uses attribution.

The student uses attribution in both the first and second sentences: "The authors of Writing in
the Liberal Arts Tradition believe" and "they explain."
 



Example 4

From a lecture by John C. Bean:

Who among us begins writing an article by choosing a topic, narrowing it, and then writing a
thesis statement and outline? Rather, most of us begin by being gradually drawn into a
conversation about a question in our disciplines that doesn't yet seem resolved. We find
something unsatisfying about this conversation; something is missing. . . . Whatever the source
of our puzzlement, our own writing originates in our sense of a conflict or question.

From a student's essay:

Often, people view the writing process as a rigid series of steps. First, you choose a topic,
then you form a thesis. An outline precedes the first draft, revision succeeds the first draft,
and editing is always the final step. In practice, however, the writing process is not nearly
so clear cut. For instance, John C. Bean (1989) argues that writing often begins not with a
thesis but with a question.

References

Bean, John C. (1989, October). Lecture presented at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN.

1. Explain why there is or is not plagiarism in the passage from the student's essay.

There is no plagiarism in the student's passage because appropriate attribution and
documentation are used to acknowledge the ideas borrowed from Bean. (In APA documentation, a
page number is not required for summaries or paraphrases, but the date is.)

2. What documentation style is the student using in this essay?

APA
 



 

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