How to write a presentation, an internship report or a dissertation without plundering the abundant resources of the web word for word? It is tempting to copy and paste in turn, but in addition to the risk of sanctions, this bad habit prevents you from progressing in comprehension and written expression. Tips for getting out.
“What percentage of your homework has at least one identical passage from the Internet?” The question was asked of nearly 3000 students in a survey carried out in April-May 2012 by the anti-plagiarism software fullgrade.com/PlagiarismChecker
Result: 21% of students admitted that more than 25% of their homework contained at least one passage copied from the Internet identically. And 67% of teachers, questioned by the same survey, estimated that more than 25% of students used copy and paste!
The evil is therefore more serious than the students are willing to admit. However, more and more establishments use software which identifies the passages of the “copied” homework. Many also have an “anti-plagiarism charter” and are increasingly giving methodological advice on how to quote or cite sources. But that is not enough to counter the terrible ease that digital tools now offer us!
Why are we tempted to copy and paste?
1. The Internet offers us in an instant an abundance of texts and resources on any field . Sometimes there is even the subject of his dissertation or his thesis already treated. Why try to produce what already exists and which I can “recover” in two clicks: “copy and paste”?
2. This text often seems perfectly written , even elegantly turned. “I could never do as well”, we say to ourselves then, in a subtle mixture of lack of self-confidence and hidden laziness.
3. Very often, the work to be done has been started far too late. The concepts which would have made it possible to produce personal work were not assimilated. Twenty pages of report to return for tomorrow? No more time to work. The resources found on the right on the left on the web are assembled in a hurry and the 20 quick pages blacked out.
4. After all, why not use the new digital tools ? Isn’t knowledge made to be shared globally like through the online encyclopedia Wikipedia? So why not “copy and paste”?
Copy and paste: where is the danger for the student?
Even if the penalties can now be very severe (up to exclusion), the most serious risk is not to be detected. It is to impoverish your intellectual activity.
Indeed, “copy and paste” prevents you from formulating your own words : you do not really think about what you want to say or demonstrate. You therefore do not progress in understanding your subject. And of course you don’t bring a really personal idea . Ultimately, your motivation for your studies weakens !
In terms of written expression, you also do not make progress: because it is by writing that we manage to write better and not vice versa.
The two challenges: knowing what to say, and how to say it
In order not to loot texts written by others but to produce your own, there are two challenges to be met:
– Before writing, you must know what you want to say : what idea, what thesis, what argument, what strong point do you want to defend and transmit to your readers in this duty? It is you who study, it is you who reflect and can contribute to the debate.
– At the time of writing, you must know how to say it : how to present your ideas, articulate them, illustrate them, justify them, all this in the clearest possible way.
And now our “anti-copy-paste” advice to acquire these two skills.
Upstream: what do you mean?
– When you have a homework assignment, start the site well in advance . You need time to assimilate knowledge, learn it, understand it, digest it; and it takes time for your ideas to germinate. For an internship report, for example, it is during the internship itself that you have to start taking notes on your observations.
– You must of course document yourself, gather all the information you need without eliminating the internet , but by favoring the most reliable sources : official institutions, specialized sites or journals indicated by your teachers, research work related to your subject. List all documents found.
– Underline the passages, sentences or quotes that seem interesting to you: if you “copy and paste” them in a draft, don’t forget to indicate where they come from (the site, the review, the article ) and who is the author (a teacher, a researcher, a writer, etc.)
Paper remains the preferred medium for deep and attentive reading
– A document is longer? more difficult to understand? Print it (unless it is a paper work) and read it in a good armchair: the paper support is better adapted to reading “deep and attentive” than reading on screen, as the works of Véronique Drai show -Zerbib, researcher in cognitive psychology at the Laboratory of uses in digital information technologies (Lutin).
– And now, take height, synthesize all your documentation: you can use for example the technique of mind-mappingby visually representing all the ideas on a large board. Order them by showing the logical links (with arrows or other symbols) between the themes. Ask yourself questions, rank arguments, examples, etc.
– Do you have a central idea? A big problem to develop? A question you want to ask? You keep the essentials of your duty: the content to be expressed and transmitted.
At the time of writing: how to express your ideas for yourself
– You can now make a plan around your central idea . It is your message, what you want to say that serves as the backbone of your assignment. While respecting the shape instructions given by the teacher (for example, making a plan in two or three parts), try not to lose your own guideline: do not try to “fill” to respect everything price an imposed numbering.
– At this stage, you already realize that the “ready-made” texts or homework that you might have found on the internet do not correspond to what you want to say: you can put them in the trash!
– If it is a fairly long written work, for example a thesis, make a very detailed plan: write in your words the titles, sub-titles and the central idea of each part and Subpart. Indicate all the necessary logical articulations : the opposing arguments, the examples or, on the contrary, the exceptions. Whatever your discipline, ideas should flow together in a logical and proportionate fashion. Also note in your plan where you will place quotes, examples, or research results found in books.
When writing, keep away from
documents that you might be tempted to copy verbatim
– And now, start writing : for each paragraph, try to reread your outline to see where you are and what you want to say there. Concentrate on capturing your idea mentally, and write it directly in your own words , without worrying about style at first.
– If you need to consult a document before writing a part, read it again, then close it before starting to write so that you are not tempted to copy it verbatim: on the one hand, it would be plagiarism ( see below), and on the other hand, this passage written by another may not correspond exactly to your thinking, or to the style of your own writing. For example in an internship report, do not copy and paste the history of the company found in the corporate brochure, but try to keep only the objective elements of interest for your purpose.
– You can of course quote texts written by others. It is even often necessary to support or illustrate what you say: be sure to cite your sources. The words extracted in extenso from another writing (book, article) must be put in quotation marks and the reference of this writing must be indicated. Likewise if you quote a passage from an article found on the internet: you must indicate the author and the name of the site (or even the URL address on your digital version). If you summarize the idea found in the book, you must also give the source, so as not to believe that it is your own idea.
– On the other hand if you state truths known to all (for example “There are four seasons in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere), it is useless to give a source.
Do the quotes well to avoid plagiarism
In higher education, you are asked to be particularly rigorous about how to mention sources in an assignment. Failure to do so is considered “plagiarism”, that is, fraud. If, for example, you copy and paste an extract of text found on the internet and written by another without indicating the source or putting quotes:
– you pass off another’s work (his text) as yours
– you deprive your reader of useful references that could allow him to go further
– you are impoverishing your duty.
Universities now give specific advice to students on how to cite sources, write bibliographic references (e.g. with specific software), and be vigilant in group work (if a student is plagiarizing, all the others are jointly responsible). So find out what your school has in place and if in doubt, seek advice from a teacher.
To find out more about plagiarism
Various higher education establishments have created sites or pages that explain precisely to students what they can and cannot do:
Once your first draft has been drafted, you are far from finished: you must reread yourself carefully (on screen and if possible on paper) to detect all faults and passages to be rewritten.
Now is the time to improve the style (see our Improving Your Writing Guide if necessary ), but also to refine your ideas, fill in the missing references precisely, and then finalize the layout.
This work on form also helps you better control your subject. For important work (thesis, dissertation), it is strongly recommended to obtain the opinion of a teacher (tutor, thesis supervisor) on the quality of the work before the final rendering.
As Nicolas Boileau (1636-1711) said, “Hurry slowly, and, without losing courage, Twenty times on the loom, put your work back: Polish it constantly and repolish it; Add sometimes, and often erase” (extract of There are certain spirits ). But don’t copy and paste!