Citing Sources - AVOID PLAGIARISM!

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Give Credit Where Credit's Due

Plagiarism-the attempt to pass off the ideas, research, theories, or words of others as one's own-is a serious academic offense. Most students know when they are intentionally plagiarizing, for example copying an entire essay out of a book. However, many people are tripped up by unintentional plagiarism-not giving proper credit for others' quotes, facts, ideas, or data.

When in Doubt, Give Credit

A good rule of thumb is to always give credit for any ideas that aren't yours by citing your sources. Different teachers may have different standards for citation. Usually, your teacher will specify how you should present your citations, but if they don't, ask.

The most common citation formats are APA, 6th edition and MLA, 7th edition. APA tends to be used more for Science and Math research, where MLA is used more for English/CA/Reading and Social Studies research papers. Tutorials for these are included on this webpage under RESOURCES AND BEYOND, plus there are many good websites as well. Also check with your teacher for specific directions.

When Don't You Have to Cite?

Common Knowledge

You don't have to give credit for a fact stated in your own words. For instance, information that is generally considered to be common knowledge does not need to be cited, such as:

Apes and dolphins are known to be quite intelligent creatures.

Your Own Ideas

You also don't have to give a citation for facts or ideas that you, yourself, have established. However, it's always a good idea to make the origin of such material clear, as shown in the example below:

After conducting a survey of my fellow middle school students, I found that 72 percent say that the potential for a good income after graduating will be an important factor in their decision about what training they may need after high school or what they will major in once they begin college.

Is Paraphrasing Plagiarism?

Paraphrasing--putting information and ideas into other words for the sake of being more brief or more clear. Used properly, paraphrasing can be a powerful tool for both explaining ideas and making persuasive arguments. But what constitutes proper and improper use of the paraphrase?

Take the following example of an original text:

The lost-wax casting process (also called cire perdue, the French term) has been used for many centuries. It probably started in Egypt. By 200 BCE the technique was known in China and ancient Mesopotamia and was soon after used by the Benin peoples in Africa. It spread to ancient Greece sometime in the sixth century BCE and was widespread in Europe until the eighteenth century, when a piece-mold process came to predominate.

--Marilyn Stokstad, Art History, Volume Two (New York, Prentice Hall, Inc. and Harry Abrams, Inc., 1995), 31.

And here is a paraphrase:

The lost-wax casting process is an ancient method for making metal sculpture. While the ancient Egyptians appear to have been the first to use it, other cultures around the world also developed or imported the technique. Introduced to Europe by the ancient Greeks in the sixth century BCE, it remained an important artistic method up to the eighteenth century (Stokstad, 31).

Rather than simply restating the text, the author of the paraphrase changes the text to draw out a particular idea and leaves out the details that aren't relevant to the point she's making. In addition, she adds more clarity by including a short definition of the lost-wax method in her opening sentence. Most importantly, the author has cited her source by author and page number.

This information has been paraphrased from:

APA Citations, 6th edition
MLA Citations--7th edition