Political commentator Juan Williams was recently caught in a plagiarism scandal. Williams has since blamed the whole thing on his researcher, who apparently was less than clear on what was a summary and what was a near direct quote from another article. Regardless, comparisons of the text provide a prime example for students to understand that plagiarism is plagiarism even if you change a few words.
For example, the lifted article says,
According to the National Foundation for American Policy, immigrants will add a net of $611 billion to the Social Security system over the next 75 years. Immigrants are a key driver of keeping the Social Security Trust Fund solvent, and Stuart Anderson of the National Foundation for American Policy finds that cutting off immigration to the country would increase the size of the Social Security deficit by 31 percent over 50 years.
The Williams article appears as follows. The differences are in bold.
According to the independent National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), immigrants will contribute $611 billion to the Social Security system over the next 75 years. Indeed, immigrants are a key force in keeping the Social Security trust fund solvent for older Americans who are at or near retirement. NFAP also found that halting all immigration into the United Size [sic] would explode the size of the Social Security deficit by at least 31 percent over 50 years.
These differences are important, because some students fall into the trap that a sentence or phrase needs only a simple rewording to become their own.
The addition of the following words does not take away from the fact that most of the paragraphs are the same.
- “at least”
Even the following word changes do not help.
- “contribute” vs. “add a net”
- “force in” vs. “driver of”
- “halting all” vs. “cutting off”
- “into the United States” vs. “in the country”
- “explode” vs. “increase”
Keep Juan Williams in mind the next time you write your own paper. If you are taking an original sentence, adding a few words, and tweaking a few others, then you are still plagiarizing. Write the sentence from scratch and make it your own.
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