Mary, a student sitting in her wheelchair

You are the Judge: Mary's Scenario

Mary is writing an essay.  She has carefully written down important parts of the books her tutor has recommended.  She copies these passages into her essay, without stating that these passages are from a source other than herself.  Her tutor has told the class to use their own words when writing, so she changes some of the wording so that the passages are not exactly the same as the book. 

She generally acknowledges her reading of these books and articles by putting them in the references section at the end of her essay, but does not indicate in the text where she has largely copied or paraphrased, nor does she give the page numbers.


Feedback for Mary's Scenario

This may seem to be a small mistake, but she is trying to pass off both text and ideas as her own when in fact they have been copied or paraphrased.  This is why it is important to always record the details of a book or journal article or web site etc when you are copying from them into your notes, together with page numbers.  You will actually get credit from tutors and examiners for properly referencing your use of other writers' material - it shows you have read around the subject in some detail, and that you know how to cite and reference properly, all of which are the attributes of a good scholar.

The purpose of essays is to demonstrate that you have studied and understood different viewpoints and that you are able to evaluate contrasting views, or advantages and disadvantages of a given option. Using passages from any text, means that you are 'borrowing' someone else's evaluations or thoughts. If these are clearly acknowledged (citing the name of the author and the year of publication), then you make this 'borrowing' clear.

A better approach would be:

  1. Read the passages or chapters first
  2. Summarise their content in your own words
  3. Check that you have understood the content of the passages or chapters
  4. Make sure that you write down the complete reference that goes with your summary
  5. Attribute the major points to the original author. This recognition would usually appear in the Citation in the text, and in the Bibliography or Reference Section

Should Mary not have acknowledged a source that she used which was recommended by her tutor, this would be easily spotted.