9.5 Ethics, Plagiarism, and Reliable Sources
Unlike personal or academic writing, technical and professional writing can be used to evaluate your job performance and can have implications that a writer may or may not have considered. Whether you are writing for colleagues within your workplace or outside vendors or customers, you will want to build a solid, well-earned favorable reputation for yourself with your writing. Your goal is to maintain and enhance your credibility, and that of your organization, at all times.
Credibility can be established through many means: using appropriate professional language, citing highly respected sources, providing reliable evidence, and using sound logic. Make sure as you start your research that you always question the credibility of the information you find. Are the sources popular or scholarly? Are they peer reviewed by experts in the field? Are the methods and arguments used based on solid reasoning and sound evidence? Is the author identifiable and does s/he have appropriate credentials? Be cautious about using sources that are not reviewed by peers or editor, or in which the information seems misleading, biased, or even false. Be a wise information consumer in your own reading and research in order to build your own reputation as an honest, ethical writer.
Quoting the work of others in your writing is fine, provided that you credit the source fully enough that your readers can find it on their own. If you fail to take careful notes, or the sentence is present in your writing but later fails to get accurate attribution, it can have a negative impact on you and your organization. That is why it is important that when you find an element you would like to incorporate in your document, in the same moment as you copy and paste or make a note of it in your research file, you need to note the source in a complete enough form to find it again.
Giving credit where credit is due will build your credibility and enhance your document. Moreover, when your writing is authentically yours, your audience will catch your enthusiasm, and you will feel more confident in the material you produce. Just as you have a responsibility in business to be honest in selling your product of service and avoid cheating your customers, so you have a responsibility in business writing to be honest in presenting your idea, and the ideas of others, and to avoid cheating your readers with plagiarized material.
Chapter Attribution Information
This chapter was written by Annemarie Hamlin, Chris Rubio, and Michele DeSilva, Central Oregon Community College, and is licensed CC-BY 4.0. Thanks to Eleanor Sumpter-Latham, Humanities/Writing Professor at Central Oregon Community College for contributing to this chapter.