(and avoiding pissin' off your teachers!)


Diana Hacker in A Writer's Reference (1995: 261) says the following on the subject of plagiarism: "Your research paper is a collaboration between you and your sources. To be fair and ethical, you must acknowledge your debt to the writers of these sources. If you don't, you are guilty of plagiarism, a serious academic offense". She suggests three ways to avoid committing plagiarism which are summarized below (Hacker 1995: 261-4):

1. Always document the sources of your borrowed ideas, your summaries of others' works, your rephrasing of sentences or paragraphs, your interpretation of other sources, as well as maps or graphs or little-known facts and statistics. Normally, this is done by introducing the borrowing with the name of the authority so as to indicate where the borrowing begins. Then place a bibliographic entry for the author in a "References Cited" section at the end of the paper (omit sources consulted but not cited). Exceptions to the rule include information considered common knowledge that could be found in a variety of general sources, e.g. the speed of light, date of the Declaration of Independence, name of the leader of Germany during WWII, and so forth.

2. Always enclose borrowed language in quotation marks to show that you are using the precise words or sentences of your source. To leave out the quotation marks means the words are your own . Cite the source, even if you have previously used the source. The one exception to the rule is when the quotation being borrowed is long enough (several sentences) to be set off from the body of the text by indenting. Check your style guide on how to use and punctuate quotes.

3. Always put summaries and paraphrases in your own words using your own style. Merely citing the source is not enough if you then go on to copy the language and structure of the source. Always use quotes, even if you only take some of the source. You cannot partially copy sentence wording or style even if you substitute for some words.

Here are some examples of correct and incorrect borrowings:

ORIGINAL VERSION (taken from Lightfoot 1995:203)

The upshot of maintaining separate subfields is that the archaeological remains of native peoples in any one region are being investigated by different teams of specialists who employ very different theoretical approaches and methodological techniques. While prehistorians investigate pre-contact sites, there is greater ambiguity in the study of post-contact Native American archaeology, depending largely on whether or not the material remains are associated with European colonies. Historical archaeologists tend to study the remains of native peoples who lived and labored in European and European American settlements (plantations, missions, trade outposts, and towns). On the other hand, post-contact sites of native peoples, which are not physically associated with broader European colonial communities, are typically investigated by the same scholars who undertake prehistoric archaeology in the region.


The perpetuation of distinct subfields in archaeology means that Native American archaeological sites in the same region are being analyzed by different groups of scholars using different analytical approaches and methodologies. Though prehistorians study pre-contact sites, who studies post-contact Native American sites is unclear, for it depends on whether or not Colonial remains are present. Usually, historical archaeologists study the sites of Native Americans who lived in contact with Euro-American communities (farms, villages, forts). Conversely, post-contact sites not immediately associated with Euro-American settlements are usually studied by the same prehistorians who practice prehistoric archaeology in the area.

This is an example of plagiarism in that no documentation of the source is provided at all. Including a citation to the source would still not be sufficient because the writer has copied phrasings word for word in some places, simply substituted new words for old in others, without altering in the slightest the style or content of the original text.


Prehistoric archaeologists of a given region are usually called in to investigate Native American sites & emdash; even when they are known to be post-contact & emdash; providing they are not connected closely with colonial settlements. Conversely, historical archaeologists are more likely to analyze the remains of Native Americans found in association with Euro-American settlements. The arbitrary division between prehistoric and historical archaeologists presents a problem because similar post-contact sites may be analyzed by completely different specialists using completely different theories and methodologies (Lightfoot 1995:203).

Although this version includes a source citation, it is not clear that the whole paragraph is being referred to; the reader can only assume the citation refers to the last sentence. Furthermore, the style changes little. Sentence order has been reversed in the borrowing, but that is all that has changed. The source has not been paraphrased so much as it has been creatively copied.


Lightfoot (1995:203) argues that, "The upshot of maintaining separate subfields is that the archaeological remains of native peoples in any one region are being investigated by different teams of specialists who employ very different theoretical approaches and methodological techniques." This means that similarities between Native American sites may be missed because of the arbitrary distinction between prehistoric and historical archaeology, a distinction that places maximum emphasis on whether Native American sites appear in association with Euro-American sites. Even more importantly, the sharing of insights and information between the subfields seldom takes place because they continue to develop their own separate tools of analysis in isolation from one another.

This version acknowledges the source at the outset and directly quotes a key passage so as to give full credit where it is due. The rest of the passage attempts to interpret the meaning of the source material but in its own style.


The subfield division between prehistoric and historic archaeology sometimes interferes with comparison and cooperation, argues Lightfoot (1995:203). As an illustration, he points out that post-contact Native American sites not in association with colonial settlements are investigated by prehistoric archaeologists, while historical archaeologists analyze Native American sites found in association with Euro-American settlements. The problem stems from the fact that even though such post-contact Indian sites might be similar, they will be analyzed using very different research tools depending on who is doing the investigation. The similarities between sites in the same region may also be obscured if the division between pre-contact and post-contact history is arbitrarily maintained.

This version does not use direct quotation but does clearly acknowledge the source and the material being borrowed from it. The rest of the paragraph raises points being made in the original source yet it is written in a different style.

References Cited

Hacker, D.

1995 A Writer's Reference, Third Edition. Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, Boston.

Lightfoot, K.G.

1995 "Culture Contact Studies: Redefining the Relationship between Prehistoric and Historical Archaeology." American Antiquity 60(2): 199-217.

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