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Library Homepage: Avoiding Plagiarism

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Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism is:

  • downloading a free research paper
  • buying a research paper from a commercial paper mill
  • copying an article from the Web or a database
  • copying a paper from someone you know or someone who previously took the same course
  • cutting and pasting from other sources without citing
  • quoting only some of the words that are copied
  • faking citations (putting a citation on your Reference page for a source you did not use)

How Can I Be Sure I’m Not Plagiarizing?

  • Don’t buy a paper, copy paragraphs from friends or classmates, “borrow” sentences from books or articles or use Web sites without identifying them and crediting them.
  • Don’t just make a list of all your sources. Organize your information with the resource next to it and cite the author immediately after the idea.
  • Acknowledge the author immediately if you quote directly, put the idea into your own words, or if you summarize.
  • You have to recognize and acknowledge EVERY fact about your topic (except if it is common knowledge.) Check with your instructor about “common knowledge.”
  • When you start taking notes and doing your research, write down the author, title and publication information with each grouping of information so you’ll remember what information and ideas have come from someone else.
  • TAKE GOOD NOTES! Don’t cut and paste paragraphs or sections of information unless you indicate right away where those passages are taken from – so you don’t forget to cite them.
  • Use italics or a different font or bold the information for your citation to make it easier to find later when you need to make your Reference page.
  • Keep all of your notes until AFTER you get your graded paper back. They will help you answer any questions your instructor may have about your work.
  • Try to use your own ideas, observations, and opinions as much as possible.
  • When writing a paper:
    • 1st - Do your reading and think about what you’re reading.
    • 2nd - Form your own opinion and develop an argument to support your thoughts and conclusions.
    • 3rd - Write in your own words.
    • 4th – Use the words, ideas and opinions of others to provide support, examples and evidence to your argument.
  • Give yourself enough time to write your paper. It’s easy to make mistakes or try to take shortcuts when you’re trying to do your work at the last minute or rushing to get a paper finished.

Why Shouldn’t I Plagiarize?

  • Plagiarism is a form of theft. It can have legal consequences.
  • Rather than plagiarizing, citing shows how much time and effort you put in to research your topic. It shows what you have learned about a topic, and it helps your reader understand what you have written.
  • Doing your own work improves your research skills and helps you develop skills in analyzing, planning, organizing, time management and attention to detail.
  • Plagiarizing can put your education and career at risk.
  • To many people, plagiarism is viewed as morally and ethically wrong. A person who plagiarizes is often considered to be someone who can’t be trusted.

5 Rules for Citing Sources

Rules for Citing When to Use When NOT to use How to Cite
Direct Quotation – Requires citation no matter how large or small the quotation. Use quotation marks and use in-text citation. 

Use direct quotes when you need to:

support your argument;

present a phrase you want remembered;

provide a specific example; summarize an author’s points;

introduce another’s claim or argument.

Avoid quoting:

a lot of details;

commonly known information;

long sections of text that could by summarized or more selectively quoted;

information you could probably state better in your own words.

Put in-text citation immediately after end quotation marks.
Paraphrase - Restating another person's thoughts or ideas in your own words. The ideas belong to someone else. You must rewrite the original wording, change the sentence structure, and cite the source. Use paraphrasing when you want to present an author’s idea but not his words.

Avoid paraphrasing:

to disguise someone else’s ideas as your own;

when you can state it more clearly in your own words;

when it fits better in the flow of the paper in your own words.

Put in-text citation at end of sentence or paragraph.
Summary - Looser form of paraphrasing – condensing and rearranging the ideas - needs to be cited, usually at the end of your paragraph. Use a summary to shorten the ideas of experts or authorities – then use to support, dispute, or improve your ideas. Avoid summarizing if it is not relevant to your own ideas or does not add interest or support to your own paper. Put in-text citation at end of sentence or paragraph.
Facts, Information, and Data – For most facts, you must acknowledge the source. You do not have to cite a source for a fact that is generally known and accepted eg. George Washington was the first President of the United States. Use facts & Information to support your arguments. If in doubt as to whether it is “common knowledge”, always cite. Avoid using facts & information to fill up pages or if you cannot connect them to your own ideas or argument. If not common knowledge, put in-text citation as close as possible to the information.
Supplementary Information – Additional information to support an argument, offer a contrasting opinion, or document resources that might be of interest to your readers. Use as needed. To support, contrast or document.   Put in-text citation as close as possible to the information.

Information adapted from:

Academic Integrity at Princeton “What is Plagiarism?” Retrieved from

Georgetown Academic Resource Center “Avoiding Plagiarism” Retrieved from

“How Not to Plagiarize” by Margaret Procter. Retrieved from Writing at the University of Toronto

The Owl at Purdue “Avoiding Plagiarism” (2008) Retrieved from

Virtual Salt “Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers” by R. Harris, 06/14/09. Retrieved from

Avoiding Plagiarism Handout