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How To Use Sources Properly

The following pages contain information on the different forms of plagiarism, proper selection and use of scholarly sources, and links to helpful websites.

Staying Out of Trouble

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Has this ever happened to you?

  • It's 11:00 pm and you just started working on a paper that’s due at 9:00 am. You've had 2 cups of strong coffee, but you’re already starting to feel sleepy and are terrified that a bad grade will ruin your GPA. 
  • When you read over the paper assignment, you are confused about what the professor is asking for, but you decide to just plow ahead without asking for any clarification.
  • When you took notes on your sources you didn't keep a clear record of what information came from which source so you decide to just cut and paste and hope your professor doesn’t notice.
  • You've borrowed a friend's paper for the same assignment to read, just to help you get started on yours and give you some ideas.
  • You realize that there is absolutely no way you can complete your writing assignment, but decide against contacting your professor and asking for help because it is too embarrassing.
  • The reading you have been assigned is very confusing, so you decide to begin by reading the Sparknotes or Wikipedia entry on the subject. 
  • Every source on your works cited page begins with www. 
  • You realize that the prompt for your English essay is very similar to the one for last year's philosophy essay. Now where is that file...

Stay out of trouble!

  • Plan Ahead! Allow yourself plenty of time to work on a writing assignment. Don't put yourself in a situation where stress will lead to poor work and bad decision making.
  • Read the assignment over as soon as you get it and if anything is confusing ask your professor for clarification.
  • Take Notes! When you are taking notes on sources, always clearly label the notes with the author, source, and page number to insure clear citations when you’re incorporating these notes into your own writing.
  • Get Feedback! It can be helpful to read other students' writing and give each other feedback, but reading another student's paper for the same assignment should not be your first step in the writing process. This approach could inadvertently influence your own approach to the assignment and contribute to potential anxiety about your own writing.
  • Ask For Help! Being caught plagiarizing will be much more embarrassing than asking for assistance from your professor. Be cautious when using internet sources. In most cases, internet sources should be used sparingly and in prior consultation with your professor.
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