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Guide to the Research Process: 5a. Plagiarism

This guide provides an introduction to the skills needed to conduct research.

What is Plagiarism?


"In an instructional setting, plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else's language, ideas, or other original (not common knowledge) material without acknowledging its source." (Council of Writing Program Administrators)

It is plagiarism when you:

  • present the words or ideas of someone else as your own without proper acknowledgement
  • copy large sections of text without quotation marks or proper citation
  • summarize or paraphrase words or ideas of someone else without citing them
  • buy or use a paper written by someone else
  • cut and paste passages from the Web, a book, or an article and insert them in your paper without citing them
  • copy any type of multimedia (graphics, audio, video), computer programs, music, graphs, or charts from someone else without giving the original creator credit

What is not Plagiarism

It is not plagiarism to use information without citing:

  • when that information is "common knowledge" - factual information in the public domain; information that can be easily looked up in standard reference works
  • when you are writing about your own experiences, observations, opinions, conclusions, etc.
  • when you are reporting the results of your own research

Types of Plagiarism

  • Intentional
    • copying a friend's work
    • buying or borrowing papers
    • cutting and pasting blocks of text from electronic sources without documenting
  • Unintentional
    • excessive quoting
    • poor documentation
  • Patchwork
    • borrowing phrases and clauses from the original source and weaving into your own work without using quotation marks or citing the source

Avoid Plagiarism

To avoid plagiarizing someone else words or ideas, make sure you:

  • take careful notes when you are researching and write down all the bibliographical information for the source, including the page numbers
  • paraphrase the original text in your own words. Be sure you are not just rearranging phrases or replacing a couple of words
  • use quotation marks or indent text that has been taken directly from the original source
  • cite every source of information you use to write your paper unless it is common knowledge or the results of your own research. This includes facts, figures, and statistics, as well as opinions and arguments
  • learn the referencing style used in your discipline

Plagiarism Tutorial