Library - Plagiarism

Many students come to college not knowing the rules of citation that can help them avoid charges of plagiarism. Please use this page and its links to learn how to avoid it.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism means using someone else's words or ideas without giving them credit. It is an act of academic dishonesty that can result in expulsion from college, whether you plagiarize intentionally or not.

Deliberate plagiarism means presenting someone else's work as your own. Whether you buy a paper from the Internet, copy an encyclopedia article, or use your roommate's paper, you are plagiarizing.

Accidental plagiarism happens when you fail to write complete, correct citations. You can prevent this by taking careful notes and understanding the rules for quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing sources. Types of accidental plagiarism:

  • leaving out quotation marks (" ") when quoting a source, even though you give the author credit
  • paraphrasing ideas from a source without giving credit to the author

What needs to be cited? What is "common knowledge?"

Common knowledge means facts you can find in numerous places and which are likely to be known be many people. You don't need to document sources when using common knowledge. An example:

John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States in 1960.

Quoting is using someone else's exact words. When you quote, place the passage you are using in quotation marks and document the source according to a standard documentation style (MLA, APA, etc.) An example:

According to a writer for USA Today, "Public schools need reform but they're irreplaceable in teaching all the nation's young" (Pritchard 14).

Paraphrasing is using someone's ideas but putting them in your own words and altering the sentence structure. Although you use your own words to paraphrase, you must still acknowledge the source; otherwise you are plagiarizing because you are presenting someone else's ideas as your own. An example:

Pritchard admits that public schools are the best approach to educating children in America, despite his demand to improve the system (14).

Visit the Owl at Purdue's web site for help with everything related to citing and avoiding plagiarism. Visit Academic Integrity at Princeton for help with paraphrasing.

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