Plagiarism versus paraphrasing: How to ensure your copy makes the grade

In this brave new world of aggregation and curation, it’s important to know the boundaries between plagiarism and paraphrasing.

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— Alexander Pope

Over the past few weeks, several articles have appeared in PR Daily about plagiarism. One involved a medical school dean who had lifted passages from a speech originally given by Dr. Atul Gawande. Another involved the principal at a New York school for writers.

If these allegations prove true, it’s unlikely that these individuals can credibly claim they didn’t know they were plagiarizing. However, the writers I work with are often confused about the difference between plagiarism and paraphrasing. They struggle with knowing when to cite and when to quote. Based on the style guide we follow—The American Medical Association Manual of Style—this is what I tell them.

• Plagiarism is the “verbatim lifting of passages without enclosing the borrowed material in quotation marks and crediting the original author.” Plagiarism should be avoided.

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