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Plagiarism: Avoiding plagiarism

What is plagiarism? How do I avoid it?

Citation is the key!

You can use other people's words and ideas as long as you CITE them appropriately. Use the links at left to help you cite your sources according to the citation style you are using.

You can also use the concepts of quoting and paraphrasing (outlined below) to incorporate other people's words and thoughts into your writing.

Helpful links: 

What sources need to be cited?

You need to cite: 

  • words or ideas presented in any medium (magazine, book, web page, TV show, advertisement, etc.)
  • information you gain through interviewing or conversing with another person face to face, over the phone, or in writing 
  • when you copy the exact words or phrase used by another person
  • when you reuse any diagrams, illustrations, charts, pictures, or other materials
  • when you reuse or repost any electronically available media, including images, audio, video, etc. 

Bottom Line: Document any words, ideas, or other productions that you did not originally create. 

(Source: Stolley, Karl. "Avoiding Plagiarism." The OWL at Purdue. 18 Sept. 2007. Purdue University.11 Oct. 2007)

What sources don't need to be cited?

You don't need to cite: 

  • your own lived experiences, your own observations and insights, your own thoughts, and your own conclusions
  • when you are writing up your own results obtained through lab or field experiments
  • when you use your own artwork, photographs, video, audio, etc. 
  • when you are using "common knowledge," things like folklore, common sense observations, myths, urban legends, historical events, etc. 
  • when you using generally-accepted facts (for example, pollution is bad for the environment), including facts within your particular field (for example, in the field of composition, "writing is a process" is a generally-accepted fact). 

(Source: Stolley, Karl. "Avoiding Plagiarism." The OWL at Purdue. 18 Sept. 2007. Purdue University.11 Oct. 2007)

Citing in Presentations

When you are presenting using PowerPoint or another presentation software, you should also cite your sources. Remember to:

  • include in-text citations for any quotations, ideas, or language you have borrowed from someone else
  • include a list of references at the end of your presentation
  • cite images you've used, including the name of the person who created the image, the title of the image, and either a hyperlink to the image or other source information
  • images can be cited throughout your presentation (below the image) or at the end of your presentation


When should I use a quotation? 

  • When the person you quote is an authority in the field
    • Sigmund Freud argues that dreams are the "royal road to the unconscious" (65).
  • When the quotation contains vivid, memorable language that gives the character of the source
    • Garner once told Lyndon Johnson that the vice-presidency "wasnt worth a bucket of warm spit" (45)
  • When the quotation offers a unique point of view
    • Evans, a survivor of the wreck, called the scene on the ground "chaotic and disorganized" (1)

(Source: Sitar, Meghan and Sarah Morris. "Avoiding Plagiarism." University of Texas Libraries. 2012. Web. 2 Nov 2012.


paraphrase reflects the ideas of the original author without using their exact words. 

Paraphrasing can help you understand the author's ideas, and keeps you from overusing quotations. 


"You are guilty of plagiarism even if you half-copy the author's sentences - either by mixing the author's phrases with your own without using quotation marks or by plugging your synonyms into the author's sentence structure." 

(Source: Hacker, Diana. The Bedford Handbook. 6th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002.)

6 Steps to Effective Paraphrasing

  1. Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning.
  2. Set the original aside, and write your paraphrase on a note card.
  3. Jot down a few words below your paraphrase to remind you later how you envision using this material. At the top of the note card, write a key word or phrase to indicate the subject of your paraphrase.
  4. Check your rendition with the original to make sure that your version accurately expresses all the essential information in a new form.
  5. Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or phraseology you have borrowed exactly from the source.
  6. Record the source (including the page) on your note card so that you can credit it easily if you decide to incorporate the material into your paper.

(Source: Purdue OWL. "6 Steps to Effective Paraphrasing." Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words. 21 Apr 2010. Web. 2 Nov 2012.)