Information Literacy Module V: Preparing to Use Information Ethically
Avoiding plagiarism and, in fact, any efforts to use researched information ethically, are really more about earning respect than staying out of trouble. Let’s begin by considering the fact that many students have two major misconceptions about research: that turning to a source to seek further information about a topic is a sign of weakness and that using research requires sneakiness, like they’re trying to pull a fast one on their instructors. Because of these misconceptions, students try to draw as little attention to their research as possible and end up plagiarizing.
The truth is that research is neither shameful nor shady. (Just make sure it’s okay with your instructor that you consult outside sources. Sometimes, like when you’re interpreting literature, your instructor would rather you think for yourself without the help of the experts.) In general, however, research strengthens your understanding of a topic and leads to better class participation and writing. Instructors respect your efforts to learn, so there’s no need to sneak that valuable research into your essay and pass it off as your own. Instead, be overt about the fact that you went above and beyond the contents of the course to seek out relevant information that applies to the topic you’re studying or writing about. Using researched evidence to support your ideas strengthens your writing, speaking, and class discussions, as long as you’re up front about it.
Let’s look at two scenarios to see how this works. . .