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What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using another person’s ideas or words without clearly acknowledging or citing the source of that information. You must give credit whenever you use:

  • Another person's idea, opinion, or theory.
  • Direct quotes from another person's actual spoken or written words.
  • Paraphrasing of another person's spoken or written words.
  • Any piece of information that is not common knowledge (e.g., fact, figure, statistic, chart)
  • Multimedia created by another person (e.g., photo, drawing, film clip, music, etc.)

Examples of Plagiarism

  • Turning in someone else’s paper as one’s own.
  • Turning in a paper that was bought on the Internet.
  • Reusing a paper previously turned in for one class and then submitting the same paper or portions of it for subsequent classes without permission of the instructor (self-plagiarism).
  • Cutting and pasting entire sections from another person's work into one’s own paper.
  • Using another person’s exact words but not placing quotation marks around the quote.
  • Only changing a few words from another person's work when paraphrasing.
  • Not including in-text or full citations in your paper.

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism - The Basic Rules

  • Make sure to place direct quotes from another person in quotation marks. Make sure to copy the words exactly as they appear in the source.

  • When you paraphrase, be sure you are not changing or rearranging just a few words. Carefully read over the text you want to paraphrase. Write out the idea in your own words.  Check your paraphrase against the original text to make sure you have not accidentally used the same phrases or words.

  • Make sure to include complete and correct citations in your works cited list.

  • Make sure to follow the guidelines and rules for the citation style specified by your instructor (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago).

  • In the beginning of the first sentence containing a quote or paraphrase of another's work, make it clear that it is someone else’s idea  (e.g., According to Smith . . . )

  • Make sure to include in-text citations within your paper for any information taken from another person’s work.  A typical in-text citation includes the author's last name or abbreviated title if no author is listed and the page number of the source if listed.  The in-text citation is enclosed in parentheses and inserted at the end of the last sentence containing a quote or paraphrase of another’s work. Example: (Jones, 127).  Check with your instructor or a librarian for other in-text citation examples.

More Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism - Managing Your Research

  • Start your research early.

  • Save digital copies of your sources including the citations whenever possible.  As you gather sources during your research, make sure to record all the information you need to cite your sources accurately and completely (e.g., authors, titles, URL addresses, etc.).  Check with your instructor or a librarian to see what citation information is required for the citation style you will be using (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago)

  • Take and keep accurate notes of the sources you use.  Distinguish between your ideas and other’s ideas and direct quotes.

  • Books:  When using the library catalog to find books, email to yourself the catalog records for any print books or eBooks you may use for your paper.  The catalog records you email to yourself provide brief information on books including the author/s, title, publisher, publication date as well as a link back to the more detailed record in the catalog.  Note the page numbers you need to cite within the book.

  • Journal, Magazine & Newspaper Articles:  When using the library databases, email to yourself articles you will use for your paper. Make sure to note the name of the library database where you found your articles. The article information you need to include from the database will depend on the format style specified by your instructor.  Most library databases have a citation tool that automatically generates a citation in the format you specify.  These citation tools are a good starting point for formatting your references but you may still need to “tweak” them according to your instructor’s specifications. 

  • Open Web:  When using resources from the open web, email to yourself the URL addresses of specific webpages from a website that you may use for your paper. 

Terms to Know

Citing: Also called documenting or referencing. The recording of information (e.g., author, title, publisher, publication date, page numbers, database name, URL address, etc.) from a source (e.g., book, article, website) which allows you and your instructor to identify and locate a source. By citing your sources, you are also giving proper credit to those sources. This information is then formatted to a citation style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago) specified by your instructor and inserted into your essay.

Common knowledge: Facts or ideas that are well know by many people and that can be found in numerous sources (e.g., Christmas Day falls on December 25th in the United States). Common knowledge does not need to be cited.

Fair use: Doctrine of fair use allows copyrighted works to be used for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Section 107 of the Copyright Law describes factors to consider in deciding when fair use applies: Purpose of use; Nature of the copyrighted work; Amount of the work used relative to the copyrighted work as a whole; and Effect of use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Parenthetical Citation: Also known as In-text Citation. An abbreviated form of a full citation that is enclosed in parentheses in the body of a paper or work. It points the reader to the full citation in a Works Cited or Reference list at the end of a paper. Parenthetical citations in APA or MLA format typically include an author's name or an abbreviated form of the title as well as the page number/s of the work you are citing. The year of publication is also needed for APA. If the author or title is mentioned within the sentence, then only a page number/s and year (if APA) is needed in the parenthetical citation. See the APA or MLA citation style guides for examples of parenthetical citations.

Paraphrasing: Using someone's ideas and putting them into your own words. This is probably the skill you will use most when incorporating sources into your writing. Although you use your own words to paraphrase, you must still cite the source of the information (e.g., Using an excerpt from Barack Obama’s January 2009 inaugural address and putting it in your own words).

Public domain: Refers to works that are not protected by copyright and are publicly available. They may be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime without permission, license or royalty payment. A work may enter the public domain because: the term of copyright protection has expired; copyright has been abandoned; or a work created by the U.S. Government.

Quote: Using someone's exact words. When you use a direct quote, place the passage in quotation marks and cite the source according to the citation style specified by your instructor (e.g., Using a direct excerpt from Barack Obama’s January 2009 inaugural address)..

Signal Phrase: A phrase, clause, or sentence that introduces a quotation, paraphrase or summary. Some common signal phrase verbs include the following: argue, claim, comment, emphasize, illustrate, imply, note, point out, report, suggest  and write. Example signal phrases: "Smith suggests that. . ." and "Smith argues that. . ."

Summarizing: Using someone's main ideas and putting them into your own words. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material.

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