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Soil Science: Writing Scientific Papers

This Guide is designed to support the research needs of Environmental Soil and Water Science students at West Virginia University.

Writing Scientific Papers

Citation Style Guides

What Constitutes Plagiarism?

What exactly does it mean to plagiarize? According to the WVU Campus Student Code, the term "plagiarism" means "use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment, including, but not limited to, the unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another individual engaged in the selling of term papers or other academic materials" (pg. 19).

So, obviously it's not OK to copy word-for-word the work of another without proper citation. Take a look at Cornell's Guide to Academic Integrity (esp. pages 16-28) for some more examples that might be harder to spot. Here are a few:

  • The Mosaic: lifting multiple phrases or sentences out of the original text and rearranging them in new patterns
  • The Paraphrase: substituting approximately equivalent terms to represent ideas from another author
  • The "Apt" Term: lifting and reusing unique terms or expressions from other authors

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Know what plagiarism is: Take some time to get familiar with spotting some of the harder-to-recognize examples of plagiarism using the sources below. Seriously, the examples are useful, and they will help you avoid inadvertent plagiarism.
  • Know your topic well: If you know your topic well, you won't feel the pressure to borrow exact terms or phrases from other authors. You will also be better prepared to synthesize your own ideas in the context of what other researchers have contributed. 
  • Try Explaining to a Friend: If you're having a hard time wrapping your head around a topic, try explaining it to a friend who is not familiar with what you are studying. This will help you find your own way of articulating an abstract or hard-to-understand idea. 
  • Understand the Consequences: Plagiarism is a form of "academic dishonesty." As such, it is a form of prohibited conduct, according to the WVU Campus Student Code. Sanctions for such prohibited conduct may be severe, and may include: failure of the course, expulsion, suspension, or probation. Read more about the penalties for academic dishonesty at WVU.

Tools for Avoiding Plagiarism