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Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing

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Borrowing extensively from a source but only acknowledging a small portion of what is borrowed


GUIDELINE 19: When borrowing heavily from a source, always craft your writing in a way that makes clear to readers which ideas are your own and which are derived from the source being consulted.

When we write a review of the literature in the biological and social sciences we summarize in one or more sentences, or perhaps in a short paragraph or two, the ideas or data of each source we consult. Of course, we also include proper citations within the summary. Thus, a typical review of the literature is sprinkled with numbered references in superscript as per the style outlined in the American Medical Association Manual of Style or, as is commonly done in the social sciences, parenthetical notations with last names of authors and dates, that indicate the sources of our information. There are instances, however, when an author will draw heavily from a single source. Yet, the reader will typically not see the systematic appearance of the same reference notation on every few sentences throughout the several paragraphs of the work that has been borrowed. Most authors recognize the awkwardness of this practice and manage to avoid it by providing only one or two citations strategically placed throughout the portion of text that is derived from another source and carefully crafting the writing to clearly indicate that the ideas expressed are not the authorís. Some authors, however, are not as consistently creative and will sometimes intersperse their ideas with those of the source being used in away that is not clear to the reader when the contributions of the source end, and those of the manuscriptís author begin. In the event that the resulting text leads the reader to interpret the borrowed ideas as having been derived by the manuscriptís author, there is a risk that the author of the manuscript will be accused of plagiarism.




 
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