Instruction: Overview of Basic Level

Recognize the basic difference between

  • avoiding plagiarism, and
  • committing plagiarism.

What is the basic difference between avoiding plagiarism and committing plagiarism?

  • If you write or speak about your own ideas or common knowledge, this is not plagiarism.
  • If you directly copy or summarize someone else's words or ideas without acknowledging the source, this is plagiarism.

What are your own ideas? Only you can answer that. Just ask yourself: Where did these ideas come from? Are these my own ideas and words, not somebody else's?

What is common knowledge? Common knowledge typically consists of well-known facts. Another way to answer this question: it would be hard to credit a specific source, because there many authoritative sources containing these well-known facts or ideas. For example, George Washington was the first president of the United States. Barack Obama was the first African American president. Fresh water normally freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (or zero degrees Celsius).

On the other hand, "ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country" is part of John F. Kennedy's inaugural address on January 20, 1961. Those are JFK's words (blue text between the quotation marks, "..."). These are not our words, nor yours. In order to avoid plagiarism, you must clearly acknowledge who said or wrote those words.

E = mc2 is a famous equation attributed to Albert Einstein. It is not our original idea, nor yours. Einstein is famous for logically deducing this equation as part of his Theory of Relativity in physics, although he was not the first to propose the idea about the relationship of energy and matter.

Therefore, you should credit the source in order to avoid plagiarism, particularly if your writing or speech makes it appear that it is your idea rather than someone else's.

Sections within Basic Level instruction

Next: Watch 1 video case and read the IU definition of plagiarism