Plagiarism...what it is and how to avoid it

In school, 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.

To avoid plagiarism, you must give credit whenever you use

  • another person's idea, opinion, or theory;

  • any facts, statistics, graphs, drawings--any pieces of information--that are not common knowledge;

  • quotations of another person's actual spoken or written words; or

  • paraphrase of another person's spoken or written words.

 Strategies for Avoiding Plagiarism

  1. Put in quotations everything that comes directly from the text especially when taking notes.

  2. Paraphrase, but be sure you are not just rearranging or replacing a few words. Be sure you have not accidentally used the same phrases or words, and that the information is accurate.

What is Common Knowledge?

Common knowledge: facts that can be found in numerous places and are likely to be known by a lot of people.

    Example: John F. Kennedy was President of the United States in the 1960s.

 This is generally known information. You do not need to document this fact.

However, you must document facts that are not generally known and ideas that interpret facts.

Quotation: using someone's words. When you quote, place the passage you are using in quotation marks, and document the source according to a standard documentation style.

Paraphrase: using someone's ideas, but putting them in 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 acknowledge the source of the information.

Produced by Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

MLA Style Parenthetical Citation

In MLA style you briefly credit sources with parenthetical citations in the text of your paper, and give the complete description of each source in your Works Cited list.

For example:

Author's name not mentioned in text

Results of studies done by Hawaii's Ocean Mammal Institute indicated that humpback whales were affected by the noise of marine engines (Calvez 41).

Author's name mentioned in text

According to Leigh Calvez, studies by the Ocean Mammal Institute indicated that Hawaiian humpback whales were affected by the noise of marine engines (41).

In your Works Cited list

Calvez, Leigh. "By the Time We Have Proof." Ocean Realm Spring 2000: 41-47.

No author identified in a source

If you use a source which does not supply an author's name, substitute, by using the title or form an abbreviated title, for the author's name in the sentence or in the parenthetical citation. Be sure to italicize the title if the source is a book, and if the source is an article, place quotation marks around the title.

Goddess religions are thought to have originated somewhere between 25,000 and 7,000 BCE (When God Was a Woman).

Electronic sources

When citing an electronic source, only include the author's last name because few electronic documents contain page numbers.

Despite the many challenges she has faced on the Internet, the author still enjoys the "magic" of the MOO (Dibbell).

Citing Images and Pictures

Images or pictures that you decide to use in a presentation or research papers must be cited. Only those that are obtained from royalty free clip art, such as the clip art available in Microsoft Word or Powerpoint do not need citing. Any items obtained from the web or scanned from a print source should be attributed to the owner of the copyrighted work.

As a general rule, the following elements are needed in the citation:

  • Artist's Name, if known

  • Title of Image

  • Title of the image, if known (if not, use a description)

  • Institution where held, if known.

  • Title of article or book (if applicable)

  • Author of article or book (if applicable)

  • Title and Date of magazine (if applicable)

  • Database name (if applicable)

  • Date of access if online or publication if originally from print material

  • URL (if applicable)