This short (really, we promise) tutorial is designed to test your knowledge of:

  • Plagiarism
  • Common knowledge
  • Quotations
  • Paraphrasing
  • Citing

If you haven't already, you might want to look over our plagiarism guide before you do the tutorial.

plagiarism

You are writing a paper on the use of Baroque musical forms by 19th century composers. You need to refer to the birth and death dates of Johannes Brahms, which you find on Wikipedia. Because you are an exceptionally thorough researcher with great hair, you double check and confirm the dates in Grove Music Online. Do you need to cite one or both of these sources with reference to Brahms's birth and death dates?

Correct! Common knowledge includes facts that the average literate person would know or could easily find. However, just because you happen to know something, you should not assume that it is common knowledge. If you are uncertain about whether a fact is common knowledge, you can test this by seeing if you can easily find that fact in a standard reference work. If there is any controversy relating to the "fact," it should not be considered common knowledge.
Incorrect. When and where a person was born is a good example of common knowledge, since these are things that the average literate person would know or could easily find out. However, just because you happen to know something, you should not assume that it is common knowledge. If you are uncertain about whether a fact is common knowledge, you can test this by seeing if you can easily find that fact in a standard reference work. If there is any controversy relating to the "fact," it should not be considered common knowledge.
common
knowledge

Can a student be held responsible for unintentional plagiarism?

Correct! Presenting someone else's work as your own is plagiarism, whether or not the act is intentional. As a writer and researcher, it is your responsibility to give credit when you use the words or ideas of others, even if they are not a direct quote.
Incorrect. Presenting someone else's work as your own is plagiarism, whether or not the act is intentional. As a writer and researcher, it is your responsibility to give credit when you use the words or ideas of others, even if they are not a direct quote.
unintentional
plagiarism

You are assigned a paper whose topic is so close to one that you did for a different class last semester that you wouldn't have to change a word to use it for your current class. Since the original paper is entirely your own work, is it acceptable to turn in the old paper instead of writing a new one?

Correct! This practice is not acceptable. What you are considering doing may be better defined as academic dishonesty than plagiarism, but it could be called self-plagiarism. You can't just turn in a previously written paper for another course. You could consult with the professor to see if it would be okay to use your old paper as a starting point from which you could further explore the subject, resulting in a new paper.
Incorrect. This practice is not acceptable. What you are considering doing may be better defined as academic dishonesty than plagiarism, but it could be called self-plagiarism. You can't just turn in a previously written paper for another course. You could consult with the professor to see if it would be okay to use your old paper as a starting point from which you could further explore the subject, resulting in a new paper.
“recycling”

From the book The Coke Machine, by Michael Blanding, the following passage illustrates Coke's marketing strategy:

We're putting ice-cold Coca-Cola Classic and our other brands within reach, wherever you look: at the supermarket, the video store, the soccer field, the gas station—everywhere.

You decide to use the information from this passage in your marketing paper. You write the following:

According to Blanding (68), "Coca-Cola is available everywhere: at the supermarket, the video store, the soccer field, the gas station."

Does this passage properly quote the original?

Correct! The text that is set off in quotation marks must be a word-for-word transcription. A better approach would be:
According to Blanding (68), Coca-Cola pursued a strategy of making their products readily available in a wide variety of venues. They are available "wherever you look: at the video store, the supermarket, the soccer field, the gas station—everywhere."
This clearly distinguishes what is being quoted versus what is being paraphrased.
Incorrect. The text that is set off in quotation marks must be a word-for-word transcription. A better approach would be:
According to Blanding (68), Coca-Cola pursued a strategy of making their products readily available in a wide variety of venues. They are available "wherever you look: at the video store, the supermarket, the soccer field, the gas station—everywhere."
This clearly distinguishes what is being quoted from what is being paraphrased.
quoting

You're writing a paper for a community health course and would like to reference the following passage:

School-based obesity prevention interventions that include changes to school-provided meals, nutrition and healthy lifestyle education, and physical activity components show promise in improving health and academic performance, particularly among elementary-aged children from low-income backgrounds. These findings are particularly encouraging given that many children from low-income backgrounds receive a significant proportion of their daily nutrition requirements at school.

Hollar, D., Messiah, S. E., Lopez-Mitnik, G., Hollar, T., Almon, M., & Agatston, A. S. (2010). Effect of a two-year obesity prevention intervention on percentile changes in body mass index and academic performance in low-income elementary school children. American Journal of Public Health, 100(4), 646-653.

You paraphrase the information as follows:

Providing obesity prevention interventions in schools that provide healthy meals, education on dieting and lifestyle, and exercise promise an improvement in health and academic outcomes, particularly among elementary-aged children from low-income backgrounds. This is very encouraging as many school-aged children consume much of their daily diet at school (Hollar et al., 2010).

Is this an acceptable paraphrasing of the passage?

Correct! The first sentence is too close to the original text. Only a few words have been changed. A direct quote (with, of course, quotation marks) would be preferable.
Incorrect. The first sentence is too close to the original text. Only a few words have been changed. A direct quote (with, of course, quotation marks) would be preferable.
para-
phrasing

With reference to this same passage:

School-based obesity prevention interventions that include changes to school-provided meals, nutrition and healthy lifestyle education, and physical activity components show promise in improving health and academic performance, particularly among elementary-aged children from low-income backgrounds. These findings are particularly encouraging given that many children from low-income backgrounds receive a significant proportion of their daily nutrition requirements at school.

Hollar, D., Messiah, S. E., Lopez-Mitnik, G., Hollar, T., Almon, M., & Agatston, A. S. (2010). Effect of a two-year obesity prevention intervention on percentile changes in body mass index and academic performance in low-income elementary school children. American Journal of Public Health, 100(4), 646-653.

You paraphrase the information as follows:

When considering that many children living close to or in poverty receive at least one meal from school, it provides hope that simple systematic changes such as offering healthy food and education on diet, lifestyle, and fitness are linked to improving health and academic outcomes (Hollar et al., 2010).

Is this an acceptable paraphrasing of the passage?

Correct! This is a good example of summarizing the original text in your own words while also giving credit to the author.
Incorrect. This is a good example of summarizing the original text in your own words while also giving credit to the author
paraphrasing
again

You're writing a paper for your historical geology class on the evolution of land plants. In the introduction, you mention that land plants first appeared during the Silurian period. This would be common knowledge among plant biologists, but not among general readers. Should you find a source that mentions this fact and cite it?

Correct! While the origin of land plants in the Silurian is common knowledge among specialists, it cannot be considered as such for the purposes of an undergraduate paper. If you were writing a paper for a paleontology journal, it might be permissible to do without a citation.
Incorrect.While the origin of land plants in the Silurian is common knowledge among specialists, it cannot be considered as such for the purposes of an undergraduate paper. If you were writing a paper for a paleontology journal, it might be permissible to do without a citation.
not-so-common
knowledge

Your art history instructor has assigned a paper in which you need to select a painting for analysis. You find this painting (Van Gogh's Sunflowers) online by using Google Images. Do you need to cite the source of this image?

Correct! You do need to cite the image, including information about the web site from which you retrieved it. In MLA style, this would look like:
Van Gogh, Vincent. Sonnenblumen. 1888. Vincent van Gogh Stiftung, Amsterdam. 21 March 2014 <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vincent_Van_Gogh_0010.jpg>.
In Turabian/Chicago style, the information would be placed in a caption as follows:
Figure 1. Sonnenblumen, Vincent van Gogh, 1888. Oil on canvas. Vincent van Gogh Stiftung, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Available from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vincent_Van_Gogh_0010.jpg
Incorrect. You do need to cite the image, including information about the web site from which you retrieved it. In MLA style, this would look like:
Van Gogh, Vincent. Sonnenblumen. 1888. Vincent van Gogh Stiftung, Amsterdam. 21 March 2014 <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vincent_Van_Gogh_0010.jpg>.
In Turabian/Chicago style, the information would be placed in a caption as follows:
Figure 1. Sonnenblumen, Vincent van Gogh, 1888. Oil on canvas. Vincent van Gogh Stiftung, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Available from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vincent_Van_Gogh_0010.jpg
images

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