Google is not a source and other thoughts on plagiarism

As I’ve written before, plagiarism is more than a moral issue, it’s a practical one that can make you seem untrustworthy. Thanks to my students, I’ve found a new way to unintentionally plagiarize.

Go to Google and type in definition and a word you want to know the definition of. Go on. I’ll wait.

Did you get something like this?

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 5.13.06 PM

Looks pretty official – like a dictionary definition or something. But maybe it isn’t. Let’s try another definition.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 5.18.52 PM

Also looks like a definition. And it is, but it’s a sourced one. That Wikipedia stuff at the bottom of the box isn’t just a helpful place to look for more info. It’s where the words defining the term came from. If you use those words, you need to cite it to the original source. I’ve seen, in a student paper, “According to Google” as a citation, and information from one of these source cards used without credit, and both uses are wrong.

As Google wants to become an on-page source of the information you want, they are pulling content from different sources to fill those definition boxes, but when you cite it, you need to go back to the original source.


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