READ: Elements of Argumentative Speaking

6 Plagiarism

What is Plagiarism?

The BYU Communications Department’s official statement on plagiarism, adapted from Grice and Skinner’s Mastering Public Speaking, is as follows:

Both speakers and listeners need to be aware of the issue of plagiarism, the unattributed use of another’s ideas, words, or organization. Plagiarism may be either intentional or unintentional. To avoid plagiarizing sources, speakers should:

  1. Establish a clear and consistent method of note taking.
  2. Record a complete source citation on each page of notes or each photocopied article.
  3. Clearly indicate in the speech any words, ideas, or organizational techniques not their own.
  4. Orally cite sources for paraphrased, as well as quoted, materials.
  5. When in doubt, acknowledge the source.
Careful source citation not only increases a speaker’s credibility with the audience, but is also ethically right.

Collecting Data: Manipulating the facts to change the variables in your favor is unethical. Stretching a statistic from twenty percent to even twenty-five percent is misleading and very offensive to your audience. If someone in the audience has an understanding of your topic, they will immediately know that your evidence is faulty. Please do not assume that the audience is naive. Even if you do not run the risk of “getting caught,” you should maintain the integrity of your data by always giving the correct information.

Admitting that You Are Human: Being pretentious means pretending that you know everything. We all want to be loved and accepted, and we feel that for this to happen we have to sell ourselves as being important and smart and attractive. For some people the problem occurs when they don’t want to admit that they are wrong. Even if they don’t have enough knowledge about a topic, they will stretch the truth to seem intelligent or even make up something to avoid admitting that they don’t know the answer to a question. Remember that critical thinkers are honest with themselves (and their listeners) about what they know and what they don’t know. People care if a trust has been broken, and they care if they have been lied to or deceived.

Remember the statement from Jenkin Lloyd Jones, “A speech is a solemn responsibility.” You have a duty to your audience and to yourself. Take responsibility for your information. “I didn’t know” is a poor excuse and has no place in the realms of critical thinking, reasoning, or ethics. This is a very important lesson, and I would recommend that you look through the material several times to understand the urgency of its message.

Techniques for Addressing Competing Arguments

  1. If the audience knows of claims and evidence that oppose yours, and those claims and evidence can be refuted, raise them in your speech and refute them.
  2. If you don’t have time to refute counterclaims that are known to your audience, mention the counterclaim and concede them if your evidence can withstand it. In other words, simply note that there are claims to the contrary, specify the claims, reiterate your own claim, and then move on.
  3. If there are counterclaims that your audience may be unaware of, ignore them if there is no time to refute them. Otherwise, if time permits, state the counterclaims and refute them.
  4. From an ethical perspective, you may ignore competing claims only when they do not severely weaken your own claims and when you have no time to address them adequately.
  1. Grice and Skinner, Mastering Public Speaking, 43.
  2. J. C. McCroskey, An Introduction to Rhetorical Communication, 6th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1993).