Information from the Internet
A common mistake is thinking that, because Internet information is free and often appears to have no author or ‘owner,’ it can be used without giving credit. However, our definition of plagiarism as “using others’ ideas and words without clearly acknowledging the source of that information” (Writing Tutorial Services, 2004) makes no mention that those ideas and words must be in a published source or a professional source or a print source. In fact, the source makes no difference what-so-ever. The important point is that when you use ideas or words that are not your own, no matter what the source, you must give credit.
Informal and non-fixed sources
A similar issue is using ideas and words from informal and non-fixed sources. As casual as much of the information on the Internet is, at least it exists in a fixed media that allows other people to find and read the same piece of information that you used. Information from a conversation or a telephone call, unless you should happen to record it, can never be revisited by another person. Letters and email are another source of information that, while fixed, are generally not available to other people. Other transient sources might be information heard on the radio, television or at a lecture or seen in a museum or art gallery. In all these cases, you are still required to give attribution for ideas and words you take from those sources. Even if it is not possible for someone to find, hear, or observe the original source, you are still responsible for providing credit.
Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University. (2004, April 27). Plagiarism: what it is and how to recognize and avoid it. Retrieved February 5, 2008, from http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/plagiarism.shtml
Last updated 8/23/2012 by Sue Thompson