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Citing Sources: Plagiarism: The Basics

Information and guidance for avoiding plagiarism. Links to online resources including citation generators and plagiarism checkers.

Plagiarism: A Definition

The Oxford English Dictionary (v.11, p. 947) defines plagiarism as: "the wrongful appropriation or purloining, and publication as one's own, of the ideas, or the expression of ideas (literary, artistic, musical, mechanical, etc.) of another.

Plagiarism is the use of another's words and ideas without giving proper credit.

Most cases of plagiarism by college students is unintentional and due to mistakes or misunderstandings. For a fuller explanation of plagiarism and best practices on how to avoid it, visit Purdue University's Online Writing Lab web page "Is It Plagiarism Yet?".

Types of Plagiarism

  • Submitting another’s work as your own
     
  • Copying or rephrasing another’s work and not acknowledging the source
     
  • Using another’s idea or argument as your own without recognition of the source
     
  • Using a paper you wrote previously and resubmitting for another class (self-plagiarism)

Common Knowledge

Common knowledge is factual information that is widely known and accepted and does not need to be cited.

  • Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president.
  • The sky is blue.
  • Broccoli is a vegetable.

Common knowledge can vary by your field of study.  What a science major knows as common knowledge may not be familiar to a business major.  Check with your instructor if you are unsure of whether or not something is truly common knowledge.

Citation Help

Librarians and Tutors are here to help you to cite your sources correctly and avoid plagiarism.

Library Databases, which are used to find articles, also provide tools to create citations. When looking at the document page, click cite to generate a citation in various styles. Always consult with your instructor if you need to double-check the citation against the official style guide.

Online Resources to help with creating citations and organizing your references/bibliography:

Online Plagiarism Checkers - free plagiarism detection software:

When To Cite

  • When quoting text directly from a source.
     
  • When you reword or paraphrase sentences or phrases from a source.
     
  • When summarizing a particular idea or argument.
     
  • If you are unsure, check with your instructor.

Examples

If you want to use the following original source information from Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, page 15:

Milk has been especially valued for two nutritional characteristics: its richness in calcium and both the quantity and quality of its protein.  Recent research has raised some fascinating questions about each of these.


Use a Quotation

To quote it directly:

“Milk has been especially valued for two nutritional characteristics: its richness in calcium and both the quantity and quality of its protein.  Recent research has raised some fascinating questions about each of these" (McGee 15).


Paraphrase or Summarize

To rephrase it:

Historically, milk has been prized for two nutritional properties: an abundance of calcium and the amount and quality of its protein although recent research raises some intriguing questions about both of these claims. (McGee 15)


These are examples of in-text citations using MLA Style and will lead the reader to the original source on the Works Cited page.


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