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Video Transcripts

Plagiarism Detection & Revision Skills: Writing About Common Knowledge and Personal Experience

Last updated 5/6/2020

 

Visual: Screen opens to a background image with a person typing on a laptop and a notebook and pencil, along with the Walden University Writing Center logo. The title Walden University Writing Center and tagline “Your writing, grammar, and APA experts” appears on the screen. The screen changes to show the series title “Plagiarism Detection & Revision Skills” and the video title “Writing About Common Knowledge & Personal Experience.”

Audio: Guitar music

 

Visual: The screen changes to show a slide with the following title and content: Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Common Knowledge
  • Professional Experience

Audio: Two concepts can create confusion for students when avoiding plagiarism: writing about common knowledge and writing about their own professional experience. If left unaddressed, improperly incorporating common knowledge and professional experience can lead to inadvertent plagiarism in multiple ways.

 

Visual: The screen changes to show a slide with the following title and content: Common Knowledge

  • information that is widely known and can be found in multiple places
  • General Example:
    • President Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States.
  • Field-Specific Example:
    • Individualized learning is when learning is targeted to the individual needs and interests of each student.

Audio: Let’s first explore common knowledge. Common knowledge is information that is widely known and can be found in multiple places. Common knowledge is context-specific, meaning it depends on the context and the community in which it is being used. What’s considered common knowledge in one community may be different than another community.

Take this example of the following fact: “President Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States.” This fact is common knowledge within the United States, so if you were including this fact in your writing, you most likely wouldn’t need a citation. On the other hand, the fact that “individualized learning is when learning is targeted to the individual needs and interests of each student” may be common knowledge in the field of education, but may not be common knowledge in other fields, say, nursing. So, whether you need to cite a source for this information would depend on the context you’re writing within.

 

Visual: The screen changes to show a slide with the following title and content: Common Knowledge

  • How do I know if a fact is common knowledge?
  • Your faculty can help you navigate this question.

Audio: These examples may lead you to wonder: How do I know if a fact is common knowledge? Because common knowledge is dependent on the context in which you are writing, you should always consult with your faculty when you aren’t sure.

Your faculty—as experts in your field and knowledgeable about your context—can help you navigate this question.

 

Visual: The screen changes to show a slide with the following title and content: Professional Experience

  • information or insights you gained while working in your field
  • Professional experience can give students a unique and insightful perspective
  • Papers based solely on professional experience can look plagiarized without citations.

Audio: The other consideration is how to incorporate professional experience in your writing. Professional experience refers to information—or insights—you gained while working in your field. Because many Walden students have extensive professional experience, students often, understandably, want to incorporate their professional experience in their assignments. This professional experience can give Walden students a unique and insightful perspective.

However, the confusion around plagiarism can occur when a student bases all or most of their academic writing on their professional experience. The resulting paper can look plagiarized because it doesn’t have any or many citations; this can be a red flag for faculty.

 

Visual: The screen changes to show a slide with the following title and content: Professional Experience

  • Cathy has taught high school science for 15 years.
  • Write about the impact standardized tests have on students of color in her district.
  • Cathy relies on her observations about standardized tests.
  • Cathy’s instructor is concerned about the lack of citations and potential plagiarism.
  • Using professional experience isn’t sufficient and should be made explicit.

Audio: Let’s explore a sample scenario:

Cathy has taught high school science for 15 years, and she’s pursuing her master’s in education at Walden. She’s experienced many changes over her years as a teacher, including the implementation of No Child Left Behind and standardized testing. Her current assignment is to write about the impact standardized tests have on students of color in her district. Cathy feels she can contribute a lot to this topic with her years of experience.

Cathy writes her paper, relying on her observations about standardized tests throughout. When her faculty member reads Cathy’s paper, she becomes concerned by Cathy’s lack of citations; she doesn’t know if Cathy plagiarized. Cathy explains the ideas in the paper are from her teaching experience, so she didn’t include citations. However, her faculty explains that because academic writing—the type of writing we do here at Walden—relies on evidence-based ideas, using professional experience isn’t sufficient. Additionally, because Cathy didn’t make it clear that the ideas were from her professional experience, a casual reader might think she plagiarized.

 

Visual: The screen changes to show a slide with the following title and content: Professional Experience

  • information or insights you gained while working in your field
  • Incorporate academic evidence:
    • Academic writing relies on published research
  • Make professional experience explicit:
    • “In my experience as a nurse…”
  • Check with your faculty:
    • May or may not be appropriate for assignments

Audio: Cathy’s situation—and misconceptions about potential plagiarism—can be avoided with our three recommendations:

First, writers should primarily focus on incorporating academic evidence. Academic writing relies on scholarly research, and so even when you have professional experience with a topic, it is important to incorporate academic research in your writing.

Second, make professional experience explicit. Professional experience can still be a valuable addition to your academic writing, but be sure the reader knows it’s your professional experience. Wording like “In my experience as a nurse…” can help identify which ideas are based on your professional experience.

Finally, our third recommendation is to check with your faculty about whether professional experience is appropriate in an assignment. Not all assignments should incorporate professional experience, and your faculty may also want you to focus on the academic research. As with common knowledge, your faculty can help you navigate this decision.

And of course, reach out to us in the Writing Center for our support. Send us an e-mail or visit us at our Live Chat hours to talk through your plagiarism questions; we’re here to support you throughout your Walden program.

 

Visual: The screen changes to an ending slide with slide a background image with a person typing on a laptop and a notebook and pencil, along with the Walden University Writing Center logo. The email address writingsupport@waldenu.edu appears on the screen.