Instruction: Overview of Expert Level
When two or more sources are used, recognize various combinations of:
- proper/improper paraphrasing,
- proper/improper quotations,
- misleading or careless writing.
Compare these Two Examples
Example A: Paraphrasing Plagiarism and Proper Quote
Learning is promoted when first principles of instruction are implemented. Students should solve authentic problems, arranged from simple to complex. Merrill (2002) claims that learning is further promoted when "existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge, ... new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner, ... new knowledge is applied by the learner, and ... when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world" (p. 43).
Example B: Proper Paraphrase and Proper Quote (Not Plagiarism)
Merrill (2002) claims that learning is promoted when first principles of instruction are implemented. Students should solve authentic problems, arranged from simple to complex. He also says that learning is further promoted when "existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge, ... new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner, ... new knowledge is applied by the learner, and ... when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world" (p. 43).
Example B uses proper paraphrasing by citing Merrill in the first sentence. Example A does not cite Merrill until the 3rd sentence, and only for the direct quote which is properly cited. Example A is paraphrasing plagiarism because attribution for the beginning sentences of the paragraph is ambiguous: are they the student's own ideas, Merrill's ideas, or even someone else's?
Some people may believe that this is being too strict. Nonetheless, the writing in Example B makes it clear whose ideas are whose. Example A makes it ambiguous and fails to give credit to the source from which they were taken (specifically Merrill's research article referenced below).
The reference for the original source is the same for both examples:
Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59.
Does every sentence paraphrased from the original source require a citation?
No, but the writer should make it clear that the citation applies to the whole group of sentences. In addition to proper citation, careful writers provide further cues to their readers which clearly identify whose ideas are whose, in order to avoid plagiarism.
Careful writers tell readers early on when another author's idea is being described and make it clear that it is the other author's idea being discussed in that whole group of sentences. When there is a switch to someone else's idea, including the writer's own idea, then careful writers tell the reader explicitly. You can see examples of this in this paper, especially within pages 3 to 6. This is especially critical when there are multiple sources, in order to make clear whose ideas are whose.
When a citation is provided at the end of a group of sentences or at the end of a paragraph, readers could infer that the citation applies only to the last sentence. Earlier sentences which lack attribution of the source might appear to be the writer's own ideas, when instead they are paraphrasing plagiarism (severed cite).
Therefore, on the test, you not only need to look for direct quotes, paraphrasing, appropriate citations, and references, but also to look for any additional writer cues that further clarify whose ideas they are. This cannot be done mindlessly. You need to read carefully and comprehend what the writer is trying to say in order to make judgments, particularly when there is ambiguity about attribution of ideas. Just because there are proper citations and references does not mean that there is no plagiarism. Omission or misplacement of citations, lack of quotation marks, incomplete citations, and other forms of writer carelessness or deception can constitute subtle forms of plagiarism.
Some plagiarism is subtle and requires careful inspection when comparing the plagiarized version with the original source. For example, in double-trouble, the text highlighted in purple is paraphrasing plagiarism, while the part highlighted in yellow is word-for-word plagiarism. The correct answer on the test would be word-for-word plagiarism, since there is no response option for both kinds of plagiarism.
On the other hand, if paraphrased text lacks a proper citation, and there is no word-for-word plagiarism, this is a severed cite. This pattern of paraphrasing plagiarism can be subtle, especially when other parts of the writing are properly cited and referenced. It can also occur when citations by a writer are not carefully placed, resulting in ambiguity about whose ideas are whose.
For further insight and examples, see patterns of plagiarism. Note that if both word-for-word and paraphrasing plagiarism occur in a sample of student writing, you would answer word-for-word plagiarism on a Practice Test or a Certification Test. You may find it further helpful if you try our interactive decision support.
Sections within Expert Level instruction
- Watch 3 video cases (about 3 minutes total).
- Watch 2 examples that demonstrate plagiarism and how to fix them.
- Answer one practice question at a time with immediate feedback.
- Reflect on what you've learned.
- Answer 10 questions on a practice test at the expert level with detailed feedback on each answer.
- View a short paper that illustrates with color highlighting how to avoid plagiarism.