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Understanding Plagiarism

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"In college courses, we are continually engaged with other people's ideas: we read them in texts, hear them in lecture, discuss them in class, and incorporate them into our own writing. As a result, it is very important that we give credit where it is due. Plagiarism is using others' ideas and words without clearly acknowledging the source of that information" (Writing Tutorial Services, 2018).

Remember you can commit plagiarism and be found to have violated academic conduct standards even if it was done unintentionally – follow these tips to avoid knowingly or unknowingly committing plagiarism.

To Avoid Plagiarism...

  • Use quotations for sentences and phrases taken directly from a source and cite your source!
  • Paraphrase ideas a.k.a. put it in your words and cite your sources!
  • Check your paraphrase against the original source to ensure you have paraphrased correctly and cite your sources!

You should cite whenever you use...

  • another person's idea, opinion, or theory
  • any information – facts, statistics, graphs, drawings, etc. – produced by another that is not common knowledge
  • quotations of another person's spoken or written words
  • paraphrase of another person's spoken or written words
  • any images, videos, music, etc. created by another person

Remember you took the time to find the research, read it, and incorporate it into your writing – show that work by citing your sources and avoid plagiarizing at the same time!

What is Paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is when you present information (ideas, opinions, concepts, theories, facts, etc.) that you found from a source and incorporate that information into your own paper, presentation, or project. When you paraphrase, you are not just re-arranging the original wording or swapping out a few words with synonyms. To correctly paraphrase, you should re-write the information in your own words, which requires you to understand that information and connect it with your own ideas and with information from your other sources.

We call this process of understanding and connecting information synthesis. It can be difficult to synthesize information but it is an important part of the research and writing process. Synthesis makes your arguments, positions, research, etc. stronger and helps organize your writing.  

To correctly paraphrase, you should...

  • Present information accurately. Make sure you have accurately represented and reported the ideas, opinions, facts, etc. of your source
  • Use your own words. Don't just re-arrange words/phrases or swap out words for synonyms. Synthesize the information - connect it your own ideas, your other sources, your argument/research/etc.
  • Give credit to (cite) the original source. Even when paraphrasing, you need to cite the original source because you are not the original creator of that information. 

When should you cite?

Yes or No Process Chart: Did you think of it? Yes, then you do not need to cite. No, then Is it common knowledge? Yes, then you do not need to cite. No, then CITE IT!

Reference: Harris, R. A., & Lockman, V. (2001). The plagiarism handbook: Strategies for preventing, detecting, and dealing with plagiarism. Pyrczak Pub.


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Writing Tutorial Services. (2018). Plagiarism: What it is and how to recognize and avoid it. Indiana University.

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