(written by a CU professor for a student take-home assignment)
As someone learning to become a professional, you are responsible for choosing wisely how you represent yourself. Shortcuts are not tolerated in the working world, as they often lead to sub-par work product, and can lead to larger problems affecting society. Plagiarism is a sort of shortcut, where an author uses the thoughts or writings of someone else and claims credit for them as their own work.
In researching ideas for your own writing, you will read the work of others to learn more about topics in your classes. When you go to write down what you know, you should be synthesizing ideas and issues learned in and out of class. You are creating documents that reflect your own understanding of the world. You will use your own words. Sometimes what you want to say is best encapsulated by the words of others, so you might want to use their words verbatim. Any time you use someone else’s words it should be very clear that they are attributed to someone else. If you quote up to a sentence of someone else’s work just use quotation marks. For longer passages use a block quote. Always indicate the source of the quote directly after it is made.
Using the words of others should be relatively rare. If you wrote a paper by stringing together a number of quotes from experts, the result would be nothing more than a mock encyclopedia entry. It would not reflect in any genuine way what you know. It is common for students, particularly those that have not been exposed to the rigors of college level work, to treat an assignment as a sort of “scavenger hunt.” They troll the Internet looking for facts that pertain to their topic, and string them together in a marginally coherent way. This is not writing, and it is plagiarism.
It is appropriate to keep what you learn from sources in one place to help you write your papers. But you are obligated to keep track of where you got the information. After you have researched your topic and amassed a collection of information you need to write your paper, you will begin to write about what you know. When it is clear that you need to identify the source of information, do so with numbered footnotes or a referencing style like the APA style.
For this assignment it is okay to talk with your classmates about the ideas. But when it comes time to write up your answers I expect your words to be yours alone. Do not share your work with your classmates, as they may not have the same work ethic as you do. Do not ask your classmates to share their writing with you, either. In the end, your work should be a reflection of what you understand about a topic, presented in your own words.