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Learn what plagiarism is and the steps you can take to avoid it in your own work.

Guidelines for Avoiding Plagiarism

Following these guidelines while you are doing your research and writing your paper will help you to avoid plagiarism:

  • Keep track of all of the sources you use.
  • If you are photocopying pages from a book, make sure to photocopy the title page as well so you will have all the pertinent information available when it is time to write your bibliography.
  • Keep track of what pages your information came from.
  • Write down the URLs of any webpages you use - including the date you accessed them.
  • In your notes or first draft, make sure to distinguish between your original ideas and those of others.
  • When paraphrasing, read over the material you want to paraphrase, try writing the material in your own words, re-read the original and correct your own version if it is too close to the original.
  • Even when paraphrased, if it is an original idea, you need to document it. Consider beginning your statement by giving credit to the author of your source. For example: According to author Maria Reynoso, ...
  • Words or phrases that are unique should be put in quotations and cited.
  • Proofread your paper to make sure credit has been given where credit is due. If in doubt, it is wiser to over document than to under document.


Give Credit where Credit is Due

The main rule to follow is to give credit where credit is due. If the idea, thoughts, words, etc., originated from outside of you, then you need to document it.

The chart below explains where you would need to credit a source and where an attribution is not required. The information in this chart - and loads of other useful facts about plagiarism originated on the OWL at Purdue's Avoiding Plagiarism page.

Citation Required Citation NOT required
Words or ideas presented in a magazine, book, newspaper, song, TV program, movie, Web page, computer program, letter, advertisement, or any other medium Writing your own lived experiences, your own observations and insights, your own thoughts, and your own conclusions about a subject
Information you gain through interviewing or conversing with another person, face to face, over the phone, or in writing When you are writing up your own results obtained through lab or field experiments
When you copy the exact words or a unique phrase of another person or entity When you use your own artwork, digital photographs, video, audio, etc.
When you reprint any diagrams, illustrations, charts, pictures, or other visual materials created by another person or entity When you are using "common knowledge," things like folklore, common sense observations, myths, urban legends, and historical events (but not historical documents)
When you reuse or repost any electronically-available media, including images, audio, video, or other media When you are using generally-accepted facts, e.g., pollution is bad for the environment, including facts that are accepted within particular discourse communities, e.g., in the field of composition studies, "writing is a process" is a generally-accepted fact.