Americans are very sensitive about copying work. If you don’t credit someone else’s work, it’s plagiarism. Plagiarism is stealing someone else’s work or thoughts. It’s basically cheating.
This applies to many situations. Suppose you are writing a paper. You have proposed a thought. You want to support that point with a fact. You may have read this fact in a book.
If that fact goes into your paper, you must cite the book. There are many ways to do this.
- You can directly quote the author.
- Let’s say the book is titled Shakespeare: The Biography.
- The author is named Peter Ackroyd.
- You might cite the book by directly quoting text. It might look like this:
According to Peter Ackroyd, author of Shakespeare: The Biography, “Most of the actors had their own specialty.”
- You can also cite the book in a bibliography.
- Different professors prefer different bibliography formats.
- Find out which format your professor wants.
- For the book above, a bibliography might look like this:
Ackroyd, Peter. Shakespeare: The Biography. New York: Anchor Books, 2005.
- The bibliography above cites the book’s:
- Publication city
- Publishing company
- Year published
Bibliographies are confusing to many students. No one is sure why they are credited this way. If you are unsure how to credit someone’s work, ask your professor.
Citing work doesn’t just apply to books. If someone else said or wrote it, you must credit them. This applies to:
- Class discussions
- Encyclopedia articles
- Internet websites
- Magazines or newspapers
Don’t feel overwhelmed. Once you do one bibliography, it’s easy to do more. Your school’s library and website should have information. Duke University has a helpful guide. Find out if your school has something similar.
There are also websites with information about citing sources. Here are a few:
You can still be creative. Don’t let fear of plagiarism keep you from being original. Think of your paper as a private seminar. You can propose as many original thoughts as you want. No one can interrupt you. But remember:
- Support your creative thoughts with facts.
- Be sure to cite these facts.
- Keep your paper organized.
- Make an outline before you start.
- Follow this outline as your write your paper.
- Even if you are being creative, make sure the reader can follow your thoughts.
Many international students are not used to this. In the U.S., students are encouraged to think and speak independently. They are encouraged to question what they are taught. This is uncommon in many other countries. It might take some time before you are comfortable enough to speak up.
If you have any doubts, ask your professor. Chances are she will encourage you to be creative.
It’s important to pay attention. Listen to what your professor and classmates say. Note what is taught in reading materials. But reflect on them. If they don’t make sense, ask why. If you disagree, say why.
Be respectful in your writing. Remember, Americans are very sensitive to comments about:
- Sexual orientation