Cite a Source/Plagiarism

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Quotes)

Each person is defined separately and distinctly by a fingerprint (and by DNA). For example, your fingerprint tells us who you are and where you have been. Your fingerprint is similar to a hand signature. For example, everyone has a signature, a way of writing their name. No two people write their names in the same way. Hand specialists study signature patterns and they have methods for determining the difference between one signature and another. This is a general assessment on the topic of hand signatures. Let’s consider a particular context: academic writing.

Your writing style represents your signature. In the same way that everyone has a hand signature, everyone also has a writing signature. In other words, each student has a certain way of analyzing a literary work and writing the academic paper. A student’s paper reflects their personal understanding of the literary work. This is why it is easy for professors to catch cheaters on exams, because no two people write, or analyze, in the same way. You and your friend may study together, but it is very easy to tell when the both of you have worked together on a paper. You can switch the wording around and the paragraphs, but the signature of one will surface over another.

In essence, a professor can always tell which one of you has written the paper and which one has copied from the other. This same example applies to the authors you cite for your papers. They have a specific signature, a craft and skill that they have developed over the years. They are known by their skill (i.e., This is Hegelian, Wordsworthian, etc.). Therefore, when your professor recognizes a signature within your papers that is not yours, he or she will tell you to cite a source to prevent plagiarism.

With this in mind, the comment “Cite a Source” can mean two things. 1) One, if you have placed the quotation marks around the quote, then you are not in danger of plagiarism; you have just forgotten to place the author’s name and page number in parenthesis. Of course, if you knowingly and willingly refuse to put the name and page number in parenthesis, then the presence of plagiarism may exist. 2) Two, the comment, usually in the words of “this is too close to the original” and “you are in danger of plagiarism,” is in reference to the lack of quotes around a group of words your professor already knows are not your own, not your own signature.

The best solution to revising papers where plagiarism exists is to cultivate your own signature, and maintain and respect the standards of others who have cultivated their signature. It is always safe, honest, and respectful to tradition to give credit to the previous author. The implication in this comment is to allow time for proofreading and revision planning. Good proofreading prevents the potential of plagiarism.

For extended explanations, see also the comments “Too Close to the Original,” and “You Are in Danger of Plagiarism.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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