Professor Pedantic 教授的考究學問
The professor awaits your query on academic writing, though in all honesty, he doesn’t have a lot of time for you. He is a tenured full professor and working on yet another magnificent academic tome. Even so, he has graciously consented to entertain your question. Submit it and prepare to be edified.

QUESTION: I have been given so many warnings about plagiarism that I am afraid to write down anything for fear I have unconsciously stolen it from someone. Am I being paranoid?

Not knowing you well enough to venture an opinion about your psychological state, I’ll have to assume you are not psychotic. I have known students who aren’t. I also have known students whose ideas about stealing ideas and words would land them in prison were their ideas applied to cars and iPods. Theft is no less reprehensible when what is being stolen is intellectual property or academic reputation.

Therefore, you are entirely correct to be nervous while gathering information from sources for submission under your name. If you carelessly cite a source or inadvertently copy a sentence in toto without adequate attribution, you run the risk of being accused of plagiarism. So … don’t be careless and inadvertent. Cite when citing. Quote when quoting. Paraphrase—that is, actually use your own words—when paraphrasing. In short, unless a fact or expression is in common usage, give full credit to the source of it.

This all should be done from respect, not fear. Original thinking and research add to the body of knowledge and should be accorded honor, and sometimes honor is about all that accrues to an original thinker. Rather than steal, here’s a suggestion: Become an original thinker yourself. Try to explore unexplored research territory. Try to reach an original conclusion, or to express a finding in an original way. The more you rely upon your own thinking, the less you have to worry about cribbing the thoughts of others.

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