Welcome Back!

Welcome back to all of the department’s LMAS students.  Welcome also to students who are beginning the LMAS program this semester.  We hope that you all had a restful holiday, and we look forward to working with all of you this semester.

To help you get off to a good start this semester, we have provided information on avoiding plagiarism below.  You will likely have several written assignments and/or oral presentations to complete throughout your graduate career (and in your professional career), so it is important to have a solid understanding of plagiarism.

If you have any additional questions about what plagiarism is and how you can avoid it after reading this post, please feel free to schedule an appointment with an EYLPDC consultant by sending an e-mail to eyLPDC@niu.edu.

Citation: Confusion, Paraphrasing, and Plagiarism
Plagiarism is never a fun topic to discuss.  However, it is critical that, as communicators, we understand what plagiarism is and know how to avoid it in our own writing and presentations.  Plagiarism can have serious academic consequences, such as failing an assignment, failing a course, or being dismissed from a university.

Additionally, in the “real world,” plagiarism can result in losing one’s job, damaging one’s professional reputation and credibility, or being sued for copyright infringement and/or damages.   Consider, for example, a notorious case of plagiarism in the music industry: Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby,” which plagiarizes Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.”

“Under Pressure”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a01QQZyl-_I&ob=av3n
“Ice Ice Baby”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rog8ou-ZepE&ob=av2e

Clearly, Vanilla Ice’s song steals an important element of “Under Pressure,” its bassline, which, according to Listverse.com, many in the music industry consider to be “the best [baseline] in popular music history” (J., 2010).

Vanilla Ice’s attempts to defend himself against charges of plagiarism were unsuccessful.  Even though his lyrics were original and he did make a few changes to the bassline of “Under Pressure,” he still plagiarized the song.  Consequently, as Listverse.com notes, “[Vanilla Ice] was ultimately forced to pay Queen and David Bowie for sampling their work. Freddie Mercury and David Bowie were also given songwriting credit for the sample” (J., 2010). 

Give Credit Carefully
As Vanilla Ice illustrated, repackaging someone else’s work by changing words and a few notes is still plagiarism.   You can avoid Vanilla Ice’s mistake by giving credit whenever you use someone else’s work.  Plagiarism comes in many shapes and forms, so be sure to give credit if you do any of the following:

  • Use someone else’s ideas
  • Use facts that are not common knowledge
  • Use someone else’s exact words or phrases (i.e., quotes)
  • Paraphrase without significantly changing the original author’s words and grammatical structure

How to Cite

  • Place quotation marks around the words/phrases that you copy.
  • Include a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence, following the appropriate style for your discipline (e.g., APA style, MLA style, Chicago style, etc.),

How to Paraphrase (Guffey, 2008, p. 336)

  • Review the original passage and identify main ideas.
  • Do not look at the passage when writing a paraphrased version in your own words.
  • Be careful not to use the same grammatical structure or simply substitute words with synonyms.  Doing so is still plagiarism (see Guffey’s example below).
  • Include a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence, following the appropriate style for your discipline (e.g., APA style, MLA style, Chicago style, etc.),
  • The following example is taken directly from Guffey, 2008, p. 336

While the BlackBerry has become standard armor for executives, a few maverick leaders are taking action to reduce e-mail use…the concern, say academics and management thinkers, is misinterpreted messages, as well as the degree to which e-mail has become a substitute for the nuanced conversations that are critical in the workplace (taken from Brady, 2006 as shown in Guffey, 2008).

Plagiarized Version (uses the same grammatical structure, many of the same words, and synonyms for the same words)
Although smartphones are standard among business executives, some pioneering bosses are acting to lower e-mail usage.  Business professors and management experts are concerned that messages are misinterpreted and that e-mail substitutes for nuances in conversations that are crucial on the job (Brady, 2006).

Acceptable Paraphrase
E-mail on the go may be the rage in business.  However, some executives are rethinking its use, as communication experts warn that e-mail triggers misunderstandings.  These specialists believe that e-mail should not replace the more subtle face-to-face interaction needed on the job (Brady, 2006).

Additional Resources

Works Cited



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