Thursday, October 10, 2013

Librarians Fighting Plagiarism with Citations

You may not know this about me, but I am vehemently opposed to plagiarism. I would call it one of my pet peeves, but it's so much stronger than that. I know that, as a librarian, I am all about freedom of information, but that's not the same thing as plagiarism. You should have access to all the information you could possibly want and then some, but if you want to use that information for something, you need to cite it, and properly. That's where we come in.

These are the three most common citation styles I run across at our school. If you've ever written a research paper, I hope you've seen at least one of these: Chicago, APA, or MLA. Chicago is typically used in history classes, APA is for psychology/sociology/social work classes, and MLA is mostly for English and other language classes, but tends to be the default for most other subjects, because students learn it in English class alongside learning how to write a research paper properly, so it makes a good go-to. Many teachers don't care which style you use, as long as you use one correctly and consistently.

So what is this citing stuff? Cassy talked about this on Tuesday... if you refer to someone else's work within your own work, you have to give them credit. What these citation guides do is show you how to do that. If you're writing in MLA style, you have to cite in MLA style, or it's considered incorrect and technically, you're plagiarizing.

You would not believe the kinds of things students will do to try to avoid citing. I've seen them buy papers off the internet (the one I have in mind wasn't even on the right topic, and actually had very poorly written citations). They try to get librarians - or the Writing Center - to write their citations for them. Sometimes they'll struggle with the citation builder in Word for hours instead of just letting me show them how to format their own citations.

Here's my favorite hint to give students who are having a hard time with citations. If you use library resources like the books and the articles from our databases, they are so much easier to cite than websites! The citation guides have tried so hard to come up with a format that works for every website, but the fact of the matter is, websites don't have a set format. They don't all include all of the necessary information, and even if they do, it's not always in the same spot. Databases and the catalog, however, include all the information you need to cite properly, and it's in a standardized format. If you stick with those resources, it won't take you more than 15 minutes to type up your citations (unless you type really, really slowly). (Not to mention, using library-vetted resources means you spend WAY less time on having to evaluate the validity of your resources... we've already done it for you. But maybe I'll talk about resource evaluation another day here...)

So please... let your librarians help you. We know where to find all the citation guides, online or in print. We have lots of practice, and some of us - like me - actually really like doing citations!

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