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How Can You Avoid Accidental Plagiarism? - Taking Notes Carefully

Although most students know they should not copy research sources blatantly, some students commit plagiarism unintentionally by taking sloppy notes. When they later start to draft their research papers, they cannot recall from what source a little known fact came or what information is a direct quotation. For example, can you detect how a student was caught plagiarizing in the following excerpt from an actual paper?

Dismissing a tenured teacher "usually requires that the school board hold a hearing at which the administration presents its arguments for dismissal and the teacher is allowed to present his or her side" (citation xx). In these hearings, the teacher always is innocent until proven guilty, just like in a criminal case. The burden of proof that the teacher has failed to live up to a clearly defined standard is squarely on the administration; the teacher does not have to prove that they have done their job.

Because the statements after the quotation were phrased so well, the instructor checked the source cited and found that the student had quoted much more than shown above. Click here to see the original quotation from the source.

The student argued that he "didn't mean to plagiarize," but he did have to admit that sloppy note-taking prevented him from knowing what was a direct quotation from the source in his notes so he ultimately committed plagiarism.

Whenever you take notes, be sure to copy down all the source information and to identify what kind of notes you are taking and from what exact page.

Source: Author's Name. Book Title. Place: Publisher, Date.

p. 92 - quotation - "Dismissal usually requires that the school board hold a hearing at which the administration presents. . .

Try using double-entry notes because the two columns encourage a student to elaborate immediately on a quotation using her or his own words in a separate space.