By Amy Bennett and Sandra Oliva, M.S. | October 23, 2017
If you’re considering going back to school at Marian University, you should be aware that intensive writing courses are required. I know... for some of you, panic has already set in. The thought of writing an essay or report brings back nightmares. I enjoy writing, but even I have horrible memories of that dreaded “What I did over summer vacation” essay assigned every fall throughout elementary school.
Maybe you’re like me and writing isn’t the problem. It's more the coming up with the ideas and just getting started. Thinking back, it wasn’t the actual writing I hated; it was that I didn’t do anything particularly remarkable over my summers—no exotic vacations, no wonderful adventures, no shopping sprees on Michigan Avenue. I played kickball, rode my bike, went swimming at Lake Wawasee, and had an occasional sleepover with my neighbor, Rhonda Zartman.
You may also dread writing because you don’t give yourself enough time to do it. It’s difficult when you’re an adult with a full-time job and a family. I get it. We never have enough time, but you have to make it a priority, and you may also need to find a quiet place with no distractions. I know I do. More power to those of you who can zone out and do homework while your kids are playing video games or watching TV in the same room. Writing also requires concentration, and that’s impossible if you’re constantly checking your phone.
Others may also be worried about remembering all of the rules regarding proper citations and plagiarism. Understandable. The truth is, I don’t think most people plagiarize intentionally. For some, it's a matter of not fully understanding the proper way to cite sources. For others, it's the careless omission of a quotation mark. It can even be as simple as referencing a source in the work cited page that does not appear in the paper itself. (That's called padding the research.) The truth is, any time you use an outside source in your writing, you should be aware of the potential to plagiarize. So, how do you avoid plagiarism?
- Print all Internet sources you intend to use in your research and refer to them often.
- Read all sources carefully to be sure you fully understand the text. Don’t use something out of context to support what you intend to say. Additionally, if you can’t put the material into your own words and sentence structures, you may not understand it well enough to use it effectively.
- Decide whether you need to summarize, paraphrase, or quote. Summarize when you need authority without all the detail. Paraphrase when more detail is necessary. Quote sparingly. There is a limit to how much of an academic assignment can actually be quoted. A quote may be difficult to properly integrate into your writing because the vocabularies and writing styles may be drastically different. In all cases, be sure your reader is aware of who said the information and where it was said.
- If you are still unsure about the proper use of your sources, paste your paper into an online plagiarism detection source and heed the warnings. Some popular sites include quetext, Dupli Checker, PaperRater, Plagiarisma, and Plagiarism Checker. Most are free up to a certain number of documents. You merely paste your document into the site and wait for the software to detect suspected plagiarism. Then, recheck sources to correct the problem.
Seek additional help if you're still not sure. The Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) has some excellent advice on summary, paraphrase, and quote. The Marian University Writing Center is there for you as well. Peer-tutors can help with any of your writing issues, not just questions on citing sources. I bet if you ask, they’d even help you with your summer vacation essay.
Related posts: Developing a Successful Writing Process and When MAPping Out Your Course of Study, Think English First