Changing other people’s ideas into your words

OK, so last week I said that I had given my students practice exam essays to write. Now I have marked them and I have to say that most of them are pretty good! But the one area of my students’ writing that I am disappointed with is where they have to read some sources and use ideas from them in their essays. That means putting other people’s ideas into your own words. Most students stay far too close to the words that the original writer uses, in some cases using exactly the same words, and in other cases just changing one or two words. Even if you refer properly to the original piece of work, you can’t just change a few words here and there.

There’s a particularly good website from the University of Essex about plagiarism which has some examples of original source material and then examples of plagiarism of this material. Look at this part of the exercise from their site:

Read the extract below, which is taken from page 96 of Arnold, J., Cooper, C. L. and Robertson, I. (1995), Work Psychology, London: Pitman.

There are a range of problems faced by minorities in the workplace. First, the selection and recruitment process is biased against them in one form or another. Second, they have very few role models in the work environment, who could mentor them and socialize them towards organizational life. Third, they do not get the feedback they need in terms of performance appraisal to guide them through the turbulent waters of their careers.

Now look at the paraphrase that the student has written:

There are a range of difficulties faced by minorities at work. First, the selection and recruitment process is biased against them in some way. Second, they have few role models in the organisational context, who could mentor and socialise them regarding organisational life. Third, they don’t get the feedback they need on their performance to guide them through the choppy waters of their careers.

Is this an example of plagiarism?

Follow this link from Essex University to work through their exercises and find the answer!

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