Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism

Warning: On Copying Unique Phrasing or Terminology

When paraphrasing or summarizing, avoid copying the unique phrasing or terminology found in your source material. Many students have been charged with plagiarism for using words that are clearly too sophisticated or well-crafted to be their own.

For instance, you would not want to refer to "the textual resistant narrative that counteracts the narrative supremacy of the dominant social text" (1) when writing an essay about the novel Wide Sargasso Sea unless your instructor is aware that you are at an advanced stage of thinking in the field of literary criticism and is familiar with and used to seeing that kind of writing style from you.

Such language includes terminology bound to raise the proverbial "red flag" when your instructor reads your work. He or she is more likely than not to be familiar with your source and, if not, will discover in short order the critical work of Fiona Barnes.

When struck by particularly impressive or compelling phrasing, it is better to quote and document it rather than represent it as your own in a paraphrase or summary.

(1) Fiona R. Barnes, "Dismantling the Master's Houses: Jean Rhys and West Indian Identity," in International Women's Writing, ed. Anne E. Brown and Manjarme E. Gooze (Westport Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1995), 150-61.

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Introduction