Recently, there have been a significant number of news items about plagiarism:
- Montana Senator John Walsh
- Kentucky Senator Rand Paul
- Fareed Zakaria, foreign policy commentator
- Coldplay, one of the best-selling bands in the world
- James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, was rebuked by Oprah Winfrey after her support of the book made it a best-seller.
The simple definition of plagiarism is using the ideas of others as if they are your own (New Oxford American Dictionary). One major reason for the increase of news items about plagiarism is the wide use of anti-plagiarism software. Years ago, getting away with plagiarism was often a simple matter. Today, most universities and colleges, and now high schools and organizations use anti-plagiarism software. If you plagiarize, you probably will be detected. The new software uses algorithms then compares text to billions of web pages and published materials.
When visiting schools across North Dakota for trainings, I emphasize to students and teachers the importance of the citation tools available in the research databases. The message is, “Students, avoid plagiarism, cite your sources.” Modern database design makes citing sources simple; you can even choose your citation format (MLS, APA, Turabian, etc.), and then copy/paste into your bibliography. Students, teachers, professors, reporters, authors, musicians, artists, all creators need to be aware of anti-plagiarism software.
Plagiarism is often unintentional. One takes notes during research and later forgets if the note is a quote or an original idea. Try to form the habit of using quotation marks and including the source with your research notes. If you use the research databases provided by your library, citing sources is easy. Avoid getting expelled from school; develop good citation practices.
“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” – Douglas Adams (novelist)