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When I first began applying correct citations and referencing, I followed methods such as placing a citation at the end of the paragraph if I am paraphrasing for one person and not following a citation for each sentence. For example:

One can use this website to write about various activities and interests such as music, art, science, etc... and one can also get in touch with the founder. However, to use the website, a person has to register and pay a fee. The website founder is known for his IT expertise. More people are joining nowadays than ever (Smith 2010, pp. 1-2) and those people can be great contributors to the website. Contribution is an important aspect of online communities (John 2014, p. 5).

Now I am reading about how each one complete sentence should be cited instead, and by using lead-ins to help the readers. In my above example, I want my readers to understand that the first 4 lines are Smith's ideas and the last 2 lines (from 'and those people') are John's ones. Now I realize that such a practice is a poor one as it may confuse the readers.

It should be something like (using lead-ins or ibid. for more readability, of course):

One can use this website to write about various activities and interests such as music, art, science, etc... and one can also get in touch with the founder (Smith 2010, pp. 1-2). However, to use the website, a person has to register and pay a fee (Smith 2010, pp. 1-2). The website founder is known for his IT expertise (Smith 2010, pp. 1-2). More people are joining nowadays than ever (Smith 2010, pp. 1-2) and those people can be great contributors to the website (John 2014, p. 5). Contribution is an important aspect of online communities (John 2014, p. 5).

My question: Can what I did in the past be considered as plagiarism (as in not making it clear whose ideas are for whom (like readers may think that unreferenced sentences are mine) crediting wrong persons, etc...) or just a bad style of writing? (Field is business and using, obviously, author-date system)

30

Referencing your source, but in a somewhat ambiguous way, does not open you to charges of plagiarism.

It's good to want to get this right, and the first example you give is slightly less clear than it could be. However, given that you have referenced your source right in that paragraph, no one is going to think you are plagiarising. This is an minor issue of style and clarity; it comes nowhere near academic misconduct.

The repeated references in your second example remove the ambiguity, but they are rather annoying and distracting to the reader (though it is less of a problem in more concise style conventions).

To cite a source for a whole paragraph or section of text, add an introductory sentence and then put the reference there.

This will make it clear that the source was used for the whole discussion, without needing to repeat yourself. It also tends to be clearer, better writing in general. For example:

The blah blah blah website is one example that illustrates this phenomenon (Smith 2010, p. 1-2) One can use this website to write about various activities and interests such as music, art, science, etc... and one can also get in touch with the founder. However, to use the website, a person has to register and pay a fee. The website founder is known for his IT expertise. More people are joining nowadays than ever...

Or something like.

Smith et. al. provide a description of the website functionality (Smith 2010, p. 1-2). One can use this website to write about various activities and interests such as music, art, science, etc... and one can also get in touch with the founder. However, to use the website, a person has to register and pay a fee. The website founder is known for his IT expertise. More people are joining nowadays than ever...

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    The last sentence is the important one here IMO. Anybody who isn't totally sure which parts are from the reference is surely more than capable of opening the book and taking a look themselves... at which point they can see exactly what you're referencing – Jon Story Jun 7 '16 at 17:16
  • @JonStory Definitely. I do that sometimes when reviewing others works. Listen, no one from my instructor says anything about my referencing style as they consider me an A student (despite past unintentional plagiarism), it's just that I am learning more and more to master my MBA thesis as I shall start writing it soon. It's just that I consider such 'mistakes' as a failure and further plagiarism (at least in my mind). – R. AS. Jun 7 '16 at 18:49
  • @R.AS. I think you're probably overthinking it, but if you're concerned then perhaps consider moving to a 'superscripted' type of reference system, which makes it much easier to reference individual sentences and phrases, without being excessively untidy – Jon Story Jun 7 '16 at 18:51
4

Not sure about your local citing conventions, but in Germany you'd wrap exact quotations in double quotes, which makes beginning and end of the quote clear.

"One can use ... than ever" (Smith 2010, pp. 1-2) and "those people ... communities" (John 2014, p. 5)

Citing every single sentence would only be required if they were spread all over different pages of the source ... which could make putting them next to each other a bit questionable.

That being said, by omitting the delimiters it is not clear where your original content ends and quoted content begins. So you're leaving the judgement open to the reader. While you should be fine with a "benevolent" reader, you could run afoul of somebody out to make trouble for you.

If you paraphrase, it would be customary to lead with something like

According to Smith one can use ... that ever" (cf. Smith 2010, pp. 1-2), and John affirms that those people ... communities (John 2014, p. 5).

Again, the leader and the source nicely wrap the outside content.

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    Thanks for the answer but I am not asking about direct/double quotes here. – R. AS. Jun 7 '16 at 15:00
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    @R.AS. I believe you are asking about double quotes here. This answer is correct, use quotes when you reproduce text verbatim. – Cape Code Jun 7 '16 at 15:10
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    @CapeCode not really. I am not asking about verbatim and exact quotations here. In the example I've given above, I want the readers to know that the first 4 lines are paraphrased words of Smith. See the edit for clarification. – R. AS. Jun 7 '16 at 15:13
  • @Stefan Schmiedl Yes and after your 2nd edit, that's what I am asking for. I realized how it should be done correctly. My question now: can what I did before considered as plagiarism? – R. AS. Jun 7 '16 at 15:22
  • As I said: by omitting "clear borders", you've left it to the reader/plagiarism hunter. – Stefan Schmiedl Jun 7 '16 at 15:24
1

I would say what you've done in the past is probably acceptable, with one caveat. According to the Bodleian Libraries' Guide to Referencing and Citations, page 23, you should acknowledge the source of the material you're paraphrasing (as was just done, for example).

Paraphrasing though, is only okay when you understand the material. Paraphrasing is putting things into your own words. Paraphrasing is NOT copying a block of text and changing a few words. In other words, the idea will be the same; the style will be your own.

As long as you've been on the right side of the line drawn in the in the latter paragraph, you're covered. I would still give that entire guide a read though, whether or not it quite matches one you've been told to use is iffy, but the general points are still valid.

  • Welcome to SE! You have here a good answer, but it would be better if, instead of including the citation in parentheses, you used the Markdown formatting to have a hyperlink. – The Pompitous of Love Jun 8 '16 at 3:17
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Not once did I ever downgrade a student's paper for over-citation. Conversely, quite a few failed assignments for shorting citations. With more severe cases I submitted them to the academic review board for disciplinary action for plagiarism.

Citations are easier to keep track and manage now with software like Endnote and there are tools built into modern word processors. Get into a habit of citing all the time and you'll do yourself huge favors.

My rule in class was always, if it has quotes around it -- cite it. If it doesn't have quotes and the thought did not originate entirely within the confines of your brain, cite it. Everything else I will expect is your own work and analysis.

If one citation source effectively leads to additional citations within that source, but those are cited in the same source by the author and point to secondary or tertiary sources (other/older books and articles by the same or new author) -- my preference is that you track down these additional sources and get the original author's context. Thus, you would ideally cite deepest sources whenever appropriate. I'll refer to this idea as deep-source-citation.

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    This doesn't really help. The asker is clearly aware that they must cite everything they use and shows plenty enough awareness that we can assume they know that that copy-pasting book chapters is wrong. They're already citing so they know how easy or hard it is. The question is whether every single sentence should contain all citations arising in that sentence. – David Richerby Jun 8 '16 at 10:50
  • @DavidRicherby you are absolutely correct. Late night irritability doesn't really add much to the discussion. I've edited my answer to clean up the inflammatory rhetoric and added my preference towards deep-source-citation which, I believe, speaks more to the topic at hand. In other words, sources cited within sources -- preferably the student will follow that chain to the deeper source and cite it directly where appropriate. This has several benefits in that you are effectively getting a greater depth of context, while double-checking the highest author's logical analysis and summation. – Greg Combs Jun 8 '16 at 15:13
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    The tone's much better but this still doesn't answer the actual question at hand. – David Richerby Jun 8 '16 at 15:23

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