Avoiding Plagiarism

The Academic Integrity program promotes academic integrity through five fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility. Those are important values, to be sure, but just as important is being aware of the things that can lead honest students to commit unintentional plagiarism.

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10 Steps to Plagiarism-Free Papers:
You are responsible for citing sources properly but there are many resources available to you. You can educate yourself on proper citation by accessing the numerous websites, books and style guides on the subject. Professors, TAs, and librarians can also answer questions. 

Sanctions for plagiarism can range from a zero on the paper, an F in the course, a notation on the transcript, or a suspension, whether it was intentional or not! In extreme cases, plagiarism can even result in expulsion or rescission of an already granted degree. Even worse, plagiarism undermines the entire academic community—the expression of ideas is intellectual property, and misrepresenting where they come from is tantamount to stealing.

  1. Understand what plagiarism is
    Anything you submit that is not somehow marked as coming from another source is assumed to be your own work. Therefore, even if you just forget to add a citation or quotation marks, you are representing someone else’s work as your own. 
  2. Understand paraphrasing
    Use your own wording when you paraphrase ideas and present them as they were intended. Make sure you give credit for the ideas with both an in-text citation and an entry in your reference list.
  3. Manage your time
    Leaving your paper until the last minute can lead to missed or incomplete citations. Make sure you are rested and start well ahead of the due date so that you don’t find yourself surfing the internet for ideas the night before the paper is due.
  4. Take careful notes
    Being disorganized is another way to accidentally plagiarize. Any time you write ANYTHING down, note where it came from so you can cite it if you end up using it.
  5. Use citation style guides
    Ask your professor which style is preferred (for example APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) and then go to the library and look at the style guide. These guides provide examples of how to properly cite every kind of source from books to websites to radio shows. Never again will you say, ‘I don’t know how to cite it so I just won’t...’!
  6. Copy and paste with caution
    Easy access to the Internet has made it far too easy to copy and paste and then forget to cite. Never copy anything without copying the URL and the date you accessed the site too!
  7. Understand common knowledge
    Everyone knows you don’t have to cite common knowledge. What they don’t know is that common knowledge is not nearly as common as they think. If you read the information somewhere, cite it.
  8. Keep printouts or copies of all sources
    If you ever need to go back to sort out your citations, you have a copy at your fingertips rather than doing a new search or going back to the library.
  9. Manage your stress
    Students report being overwhelmed as one of the top reasons they end up plagiarizing. If you find yourself in crisis, ask for an extension rather than handing in something with missing or poor citations. 
  10. When in doubt—ALWAYS ASK!
    Your professor may not give you all the information you need to get started. If you have any questions about how or what to cite, ask your professor. Chances are good that other students are wondering the same thing!