Words are very powerful. Therefore, it is important to use them truthfully, accurately, and responsibly. Statements should be accurate both in terms of how information is managed and how it is credited.
Ethical management of information requires both factual and accurate presentation. Individuals who alter results by reporting truthful but incomplete data that will skew the findings are mismanaging information.
Ethical writing requires that, with access to the same information and knowledge, others may reasonably reach the same conclusions as the writer. Different disciplines use different Style Guides so make sure you are using the one required or recommended by your professor. It is important to credit others’ materials in order to:
- Place your ideas in the ongoing thinking of specialists on your topic. With many types of papers, grounding your line of reasoning in the ongoing work on the topic by making reference to key sources increases the credibility of your argument.
- Avoid the appearance of claiming another's work as your own--plagiarizing, in other words. Not to give credit to others for their ideas, whether or not their exact words are cited, is to commit intellectual theft, a very serious offense.
Sometimes writers are uncertain when to give credit. Use research procedures as your guideline: Who or what is the original source that another researcher should contact to clarify information appearing in your writing? As you write, note that:
- Agreeing with the material that someone else wrote does not make it your own.
- Rearranging words from someone else's prose does not change the fact that it is not your own work.
- Writing a paper that consists of numerous quotations strung together does not qualify as one's own work.
Sometimes writers are uncertain how to give credit. Here are tips and additional resources:
- If you write word-for-word what appears in another source, put double quotation marks around the words and cite the source both in the text and on your Works Cited or Reference page.
- If you borrow ideas, arguments, data, or other information from another source, cite the source even if you put the material in your own words.
- Use the Style Guide recommended by your faculty member. Some of the most commonly used, (APA, ASA and MLA), along with many other different styles, can be found at Citing/Documenting Your Sources.