1. Rumwriter
    Offline

    Rumwriter Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    20

    Citing dictionaries

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rumwriter, Jan 6, 2015.

    If you're putting a definition in an article or essay, do you have to cite where you got the definition to avoid plagiarism? Part of me feels like, because you are using their exact words, you have to cite them. The other part of me feels like you are simply stating a fact, so to speak, so you aren't stealing anything--a word means what it means. For instance, Pulp Fiction begins with definition of "Pulp." Tarantino doesn't cite a source--Pulp means what it means, no matter who said it.

    I want to begin my blog post with a definition of "irony." Just looking for what is expected.
     
  2. Chinspinner
    Offline

    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,918
    Likes Received:
    1,018
    Location:
    London, now Auckland
    Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife- apparently. Although the only irony in that song is the title.
     
    Lemon flavoured likes this.
  3. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,504
    Likes Received:
    1,337
    For an essay, it makes sense to attribute everything that you are quoting, so that your sources can be checked for accuracy (your accuracy in quoting them) and legitimacy (would you believe anything that Adolf Hitler said about the Jews?)

    For a blog, I think that what's important is that your definition won't get a lot of people saying "That's not what it means! I'm going to look that up!" If that's unlikely, you don't need the attribution. But, on balance, I'd say give it (perhaps as a footnote) and save yourself too much heartache.

    I don't think that a definition of a word is a plagiarism issue.
     
  4. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    From Purdue's Online Writing Lab:
    Note that the citation here is in MLA format.

    Edited to clarify: Yes, you would need to cite it if you're using the definition from a particular dictionary.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  5. Daniel Hernandez
    Offline

    Daniel Hernandez Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2015
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    1
  6. lustrousonion
    Offline

    lustrousonion Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2014
    Messages:
    302
    Likes Received:
    132
    Location:
    Germany
    Anytime you quote published words exactly, you have to cite. But if I were writing an essay, I'd try to find something outside of a dictionary definition. Depends on the tone of the essay, but you could find something from a scholar or even a comedian.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,940
    Likes Received:
    5,473
    A word's meaning is a fact, but many different words could be used to describe that meaning, so I'd be very surprised if the definition isn't copyrightable. I wouldn't be confident that citing the source would be sufficient.

    One thought: How about finding a dictionary sufficiently old to be out of copyright?

    Edited to add: It would still be plagiarism in that case, but not violation of copyright. If you don't want the plagiarism, just cite the source. I'd probably do tho by stating the definition where I want it, and then crediting it at the bottom. That's how I credit the "free but give credit" photos that I put in my blog.
     
  8. Gawler
    Offline

    Gawler Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2014
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    144
    Location:
    Australia via Hawaii via Australia via England
    Not really sure about this one. I do know that most dictionaries use The Oxford Dictionary as their source but cannot ever remember them quoting a source.
     
  9. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,780
    Likes Received:
    7,292
    Location:
    Scotland
    I just ran across this blog by Jane Friedman, which deals with this topic in general. She teaches university courses in publishing and other writer-related topics, and seems well-informed—not only in her main blog article, but in the very informative discussion that follows.

    Basically, citing sources seems to be a grey area AND seeking permission is not always necessary or a great idea! If you contact a publisher for permission they will always charge you for it—even if you're within the category of 'fair use.' If these publishers had to go to court to press their claim, they might well lose ...but you don't know that. It's a minefield.

    http://janefriedman.com/2012/01/23/permissions/

    Here is a particularly useful section, which is actually a blog written by another writer, but it deals more completely with use of quotes within works of fiction.

    http://janefriedman.com/2013/07/15/the-fair-use-doctrine/
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2015
  10. Lemon flavoured
    Offline

    Lemon flavoured Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2014
    Messages:
    117
    Likes Received:
    34
    Location:
    Newark, Nottinghamshire
    Although of course there is the theory that that may be the whole point of the song...
     
  11. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver


    And I feel it worth mentioning that starting your essay with a definition is a fine way to go, if you want your readers to think you're still in elementary school. You couldn't get more cliched.

    http://blog.writeathome.com/index.php/2012/06/please-quit-starting-papers-with-dictionary-definitions/
     
  12. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,024
    Likes Received:
    1,125
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    @Jack Asher
    See, I was going to say that.
    But I felt it was too mean.

    So, please don't start with a dictionary definition.
    Odds are, people know the word well enough unless the entire paper is about semantics and splitting hairs of a particular meaning because you're in some sort of linguist class..
     

Share This Page