Academic Integrity at Carleton

BookletThis information is intended to help students in writing essays and other papers by giving basic information on the proper use and proper acknowledgment of source material. Scholarly work in every field requires use of other people’s published—and occasionally unpublished—material. Academic integrity requires that this use be frankly and completely identified and acknowledged. The failure to do this is plagiarism.

It is assumed that a student is the author of all course work (quizzes, tests, papers, lab work, etc.) that he/she submits, whether for a grade or not, and that the work has not been submitted for credit in another class without the instructor's permission. Images, ideas, data, audio clips, or phrases borrowed from others should be fully identified by standard procedures for making such acknowledgment.

An act of academic dishonesty is a serious offense in a college community. By seeking credit for work that is not his or her own, a student takes unfair advantage of fellow students—who accept their limitations—and of their teachers—who trust their work. Dishonesty in academic work, particularly in the form of plagiarism or cheating, also defeats the process of self-discovery that is the heart of a liberal education. People establish their integrity and personality as they learn to distinguish what is significantly their own from what belongs to others, and as they learn to value their own work, including its limitations, in relation to the work of others. As a scholar, finally, one should be generous and welcoming in acknowledging the work of other scholars, for their work makes possible one's own.

At Carleton College, an act of academic dishonesty is therefore regarded as conflicting with the work and purpose of the entire College and not merely as a private matter between the student and an instructor; all cases involving questions of academic integrity are referred for appropriate action to the Academic Standing Committee (ASC) via the Associate Dean of Students or the Associate Dean of the College. This also protects students, who cannot be “graded down” on a suspicion of academic dishonesty that has not been vetted by the larger community.

Except where the information is specific to Carleton College, the text below is reprinted from, an excellent website we encourage you to explore.

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  • What is Plagiarism

    • Many people think of plagiarism as copying another’s work, or borrowing someone else’s original ideas. But terms like “copying” and “borrowing” can disguise the seriousness of the offense:

      According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to “plagiarize” means

      1. to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
      2. to use (another's production) without crediting the source
      3. to commit literary theft
      4. to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

      In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterward.

      But can words and ideas really be stolen?

      According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. In the United States and many other countries, the expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property, and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some media (such as a book or a computer file).

      All of the following are considered plagiarism:

      • turning in someone else’s work as your own
      • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
      • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
      • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
      • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
      • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on “fair use” rules)

      Attention! Changing the words of an original source is not sufficient to prevent plagiarism. If you have retained the essential idea of an original source, and have not cited it, then no matter how drastically you may have altered its context or presentation, you have still plagiarized.

      Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided, however, by citing sources. Simply acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed, and providing your audience with the information necessary to find that source, is usually enough to prevent plagiarism.

  • Types of Plagiarism

    • Plagiarism is not always a black-and-white issue. The boundary between plagiarism and research is often unclear. Learning to recognize the various forms of plagiarism, especially the more ambiguous ones, is an important step in the fight to prevent it.

      I. Sources not cited

      1. “The Ghost Writer”
        • The writer turns in another’s work, word-for-word, as his or her own.
      2. “The Photocopy”
        • The writer copies significant portions of text straight from a single source, without alteration.
      3. “The Potluck Paper”
        • The writer tries to disguise plagiarism by copying from several different sources, tweaking the sentences to make them fit together while retaining most of the original phrasing.
      4. “The Poor Disguise”
        • Although the writer has retained the essential content of the source, he or she has altered the paper’s appearance slightly by changing key words and phrases.
      5. “The Labor of Laziness”
        • The writer takes the time to paraphrase most of the paper from other sources and make it all fit together, instead of spending the same effort on original work.
      6. “The Self-Stealer”
        • The writer “borrows” generously from his or her previous work, violating policies concerning the expectation of originality adopted by most academic institutions.

      II. Sources Cited (but still plagiarized!)

      1. “The Forgotten Footnote”
        • The writer mentions an author’s name for a source, but neglects to include specific information on the location of the material referenced. This often masks other forms of plagiarism by obscuring source locations.
      2. “The Misinformer”
        • The writer provides inaccurate information regarding the sources, making it impossible to find them.
      3. “The Too-Perfect Paraphrase”
        • The writer properly cites a source, but neglects to put in quotation marks text that has been copied word-for-word, or close to it. Although attributing the basic ideas to the source, the writer is falsely claiming original presentation and interpretation of the information.
      4. “The Resourceful Citer”
        • The writer properly cites all sources, paraphrasing and using quotations appropriately. The catch? The paper contains almost no original work! It is sometimes difficult to spot this form of plagiarism because it looks like any other well-researched document.
      5. “The Perfect Crime”
        • Well, we all know it doesn’t exist. In this case, the writer properly quotes and cites sources in some places, but goes on to paraphrase other arguments from those sources without citation. This way, the writer tries to pass off the paraphrased material as his or her own analysis of the cited material.
  • Frequently Asked Questions

    • What is plagiarism?

      Simply put, plagiarism is the use of another's original words or ideas as though they were your own. Any time you borrow from an original source and do not give proper credit, you have committed plagiarism and violated U.S. copyright laws.

      Do I have to cite sources for every fact I use?

      No. You do not have to cite sources for facts that are not the result of unique individual research. Facts that are readily available from numerous sources and generally known to the public are considered “common knowledge.” You can use these facts liberally in your paper without citing authors. If you are unsure whether or not a fact is common knowledge, you should probably cite your source just to be safe.

      What will happen if my course instructor suspects that I have submitted work that she/he believes was not my own?

      If your faculty instructor believes that you have engaged in any academic dishonesty, whether cheating, plagiarism, or any other act in which you present another’s work as your own, she/he must immediately send the evidence of dishonesty to the Academic Standing Committee (in the person of the Associate Dean of the College and the Associate Dean of Students) for further investigation and adjudication. The instructor is not permitted to grade the work in question until the allegation has been resolved.

      You will meet privately with an Associate Dean and have the opportunity to fully describe how you produced the submitted work, including evidence that the work is your own.

      The investigation will produce one of three outcomes:

      • If you admit to the dishonesty, or understand after seeing the faculty-submitted evidence that you have violated Carleton’s academic integrity code (and you do not have a disciplinary record), you can choose to take your uncontested charge to an informal educational hearing with the two Associate Deans and your course instructor.
      • If you wish to contest the charge and investigative conclusion, your case will be heard by the full Academic Standing Committee.
      • If, on the basis of the investigation the Associate Dean decides not pursue charges, your work will be returned to the instructor for grading.

      The informal hearing is designed to help the student fully understand the nature and causes of the dishonesty, and explore strategies for preventing future charges. But the hearing does create a disciplinary record, a letter with the finding and sanction (typically a warning or a period of disciplinary probation) that remains in a separate disciplinary file until graduation. In the past decade, more than 90% of the investigated incidents have been resolved with the informal hearing.

      The formal session before the full Academic Standing Committee is designed to provide a student contesting the charge a thorough and fair hearing to determine whether academic dishonesty has occurred, and if so an appropriate sanction. Like the informal hearing, the formal hearing creates a disciplinary record that remains in a separate disciplinary file until graduation.

      If your case does not bring charges and is dismissed, the work is returned to your instructor, and a record of the allegation and investigation is placed in your student file until graduation; no disciplinary file or record is created.

      What is “fair use”?

      The United States government has established rough guidelines for determining the nature and amount of work that may be “borrowed” without explicit written consent.

      These are called “fair use” laws, because they try to establish whether certain uses of original material are reasonable. The laws themselves are vague and complicated. Below we have condensed them into some rubrics you can apply to help determine the fairness of any given usage.

      • The nature of your use. If you have merely copied something, it is unlikely to be considered fair use. But if the material has been transformed in an original way through interpretation, analysis, etc., it is more likely to be considered “fair use.”
      • The amount you’ve used. The more you’ve “borrowed,” the less likely it is to be considered fair use. What percentage of your work is “borrowed” material? What percentage of the original did you use? The lower the better.
      • The effect of your use on the original. If you are creating a work that competes with the original in its own market, and may do the original author economic harm, any substantial borrowing is unlikely to be considered fair use. The more the content of your work or its target audience differs from that of the original, the better.

      If you have questions about fair use, we recommend reviewing Carleton’s “Fair Use” and Copyright laws website.

  • What is a Citation?

    • A “citation” is the way you tell your readers that certain material in your work came from another source. It also gives your readers the information necessary to find that source again, including:

      • information about the author
      • the title of the work
      • the name and location of the company that published your copy of the source
      • the date your copy was published
      • the page numbers of the material you are borrowing

      Why should I cite sources?

      Giving credit to the original author by citing sources is the only way to use other people’s work without plagiarizing. But there are a number of other reasons to cite sources:

      • Citations are extremely helpful to anyone who wants to find out more about your ideas and where they came from.
      • Not all sources are good or right – your own ideas may often be more accurate or interesting than those of your sources. Proper citation will keep you from taking the rap for someone else’s bad ideas.
      • Citing sources shows the amount of research you’ve done.
      • Citing sources strengthens your work by lending outside support to your ideas.

      Doesn’t citing sources make my work seem less original?

      Not at all. On the contrary, citing sources actually helps your reader distinguish your ideas from those of your sources. This will actually emphasize the originality of your own work.

      When do I need to cite?

      Whenever you borrow words or ideas, you need to acknowledge their source. The following situations almost always require citation:

      • Whenever you use quotes
      • Whenever you paraphrase
      • Whenever you use an idea that someone else has already expressed
      • Whenever you make specific reference to the work of another
      • Whenever someone else’s work has been critical in developing your own ideas.

      How do I cite sources?

      This depends on what type of work you are writing, how you are using the borrowed material, and the expectations of your instructor.

      First, you have to think about how you want to identify your sources. If your sources are very important to your ideas, you should mention the author and work in a sentence that introduces your citation. If, however, you are only citing the source to make a minor point, you may consider using parenthetical references, footnotes, or endnotes.

      There are also different forms of citation for different disciplines. For example, when you cite sources in a psychology paper you would probably use a different form of citation than you might in a paper for an English class.

      Finally, you should always consult your instructor to determine the form of citation appropriate for your paper. You can save a lot of time and energy simply by asking “How should I cite my sources,” or “What style of citation should I use?” before you begin writing.

      In the following sections, we will take you step-by-step through some general guidelines for citing sources.

      Identifying Sources in the Body of Your Paper

      The first time you cite a source, it is almost always a good idea to mention its author(s), title, and genre (book, article, or web page, etc.). If the source is central to your work, you may want to introduce it in a separate sentence or two, summarizing its importance and main ideas. But often you can just tag this information onto the beginning or end of a sentence. For example, the following sentence puts information about the author and work before the quotation:

      Milan Kundera, in his book The Art of the Novel, suggests that “if the novel should really disappear, it will do so not because it has exhausted its powers but because it exists in a world grown alien to it.”

      You may also want to describe the authors if they are not famous, or if you have reason to believe your reader does not know them. You should say whether they are economic analysts, artists, physicists, etc. If you do not know anything about the authors, and cannot find any information, it is best to say where you found the source and why you believe it is credible and worth citing. For example,

      In an essay presented at an Asian Studies conference held at Duke University, Sheldon Garon analyzes the relation of state, labor-unions, and small businesses in Japan between the 1950s and 1980s.

      If you have already introduced the author and work from which you are citing, and you are obviously referring to the same work, you probably don’t need to mention them again. However, if you have cited other sources and then go back to one you had cited earlier, it is a good idea to mention at least the author’s name again (and the work if you have referred to more than one by this author) to avoid confusion.

  • Quoting Material

    • What is quoting?

      Taking the exact words from an original source is called quoting. You should quote material when you believe the way the original author expresses an idea is the most effective means of communicating the point you want to make. If you want to borrow an idea from an author, but do not need his or her exact words, you should try paraphrasing instead of quoting.

      How often should I quote?

      Quote as infrequently as possible. You never want your essay to become a series of connected quotations, because that leaves little room for your own ideas. Most of the time, paraphrasing and summarizing your sources is sufficient (but remember that you still have to cite them!). If you think it’s important to quote something, an excellent rule of thumb is that for every line you quote, you should have at least two lines analyzing it.

      How do I incorporate quotations in my paper?

      Most of the time, you can just identify a source and quote from it. Sometimes, however, you will need to modify the words or format of the quotation in order to fit in your paper. Whenever you change the original words of your source, you must indicate that you have done so. Otherwise, you would be claiming the original author used words that he or she did not use. But be careful not to change too many words! You could accidentally change the meaning of the quotation, and falsely claim the author said something they did not.

      For example, let’s say you want to quote from the following passage in an essay called “United Shareholders of America,” by Jacob Weisberg:

      “The citizen-investor serves his fellow citizens badly by his inclination to withdraw from the community. He tends to serve himself badly as well. He does so by focusing his pursuit of happiness on something that very seldom makes people happy in the way they expect it to.”

      When you quote, you generally want to be as concise as possible. Keep only the material that is strictly relevant to your own ideas. So here you would not want to quote the middle sentence, since it is repeated again in the more informative last sentence. However, just skipping it would not work – the final sentence would not make sense without it. So, you have to change the wording a little bit. In order to do so, you will need to use some editing symbols. Your quotation might end up looking like this:

      In his essay, “United Shareholders of America,” Jacob Weisberg insists that “The citizen-investor serves his fellow citizens badly by his inclination to withdraw from the community. He tends to serve himself badly. . . by focusing his pursuit of happiness on something that very seldom makes people happy in the way they expect it to.”

      The ellipses (. . .) indicate that you have skipped over some words in order to condense the passage. But even this version is still a bit lengthy – there is something else you can do to make it even more concise. Try changing the last sentence from

      “He tends to serve himself badly. . . by focusing his pursuit of happiness on something that very seldom makes people happy in the way they expect it to.”


      “He tends to serve himself badly. . . by focusing his pursuit of happiness on [money].”

      The brackets around the word [money] indicate that you have substituted that word for other words the author used. To make a substitution this important, however, you had better be sure that “money” is what the final phrase meant – if the author intentionally left it ambiguous, you would be significantly altering his meaning. That would make you guilty of fraudulent attribution. In this case, however, the paragraph following the one quoted explains that the author is referring to money, so it is okay.

      As a general rule, it is okay to make minor grammatical and stylistic changes to make the quoted material fit in your paper, but it is not okay to significantly alter the structure of the material or its content.

      Quoting within Quotes

      When you have “embedded quotes,” or quotations within quotations, you should switch from the normal quotation marks (“”) to single quotation marks (‘’) to show the difference. For example, if an original passage by John Archer reads:

      The Mountain Coyote has been described as a “wily” and “single-minded” predator by zoologist Ima Warner.

      Your quotation might look like this:

      As John Archer explains, “The Mountain Coyote has been described as a ‘wily’ and ‘single-minded’ predator by zoologist Ima Warner.”

      Note the double quotes surrounding the entire quotation, and the single quotes around the words quoted in the original.

      How do I include long quotes in my paper?

      The exact formatting requirements for long quotations differ depending on the citation style. In general, however, if you are quoting more than 3 lines of material, you should do the following:

      • Change the font to one noticeably smaller (in a document that is mostly 12 point font, you should use a 10 point font, for example)
      • Double indent the quotation—that means adjusting the left and right margins so that they are about one inch smaller than the main body of your paper.
      • If you have this option in your word-processor, “left-justify” the text. That means make it so that each line begins in the same place, creating a straight line on the left side of the quotation, while the right side is jagged.
      • Do NOT use quotation marks for the entire quotation—the graphic changes you have made already (changing the font, double indenting, etc.) are enough to indicate that the material is quoted. For quotations within that quotation, use normal quotation marks, not single ones.
      • You might want to skip 1.5 times the line-spacing you are using in the document before you begin the quotation and after it. This is optional and depends on the style preferred by your instructor.
  • Listing References

    • What’s a Bibliography?

      A bibliography is a list of all of the sources you have used in the process of researching your work. In general, a bibliography should include:

      • the authors’ names
      • the titles of the works
      • the names and locations of the companies that published your copies of the sources
      • the dates your copies were published
      • relevant page numbers (optional)

      Different kinds of sources, such as magazine articles and chapters in multi-author volumes, may require more specific information to help your reader locate the material.

      OK, so what’s an Annotated Bibliography?

      An annotated bibliography is the same as a bibliography with one important difference: in an annotated bibliography, the bibliographic information is followed by a brief description of the content, quality, and usefulness of the source.

      What are Footnotes?

      Footnotes are notes placed at the bottom of a page. They cite references or comment on a designated part of the text above it. For example, say you want to add an interesting comment to a sentence you have written, but the comment is not directly related to the argument of your paragraph. In this case, you could add the symbol for a footnote. Then, at the bottom of the page you could reprint the symbol and insert your comment. Here is an example:

      This is an illustration of a footnote.1 The number “1” at the end of the sentence corresponds to the note below. See how it fits in the body of the text?

      1 At the bottom of the page you can insert your comments about the sentence preceding the footnote.

      When your reader comes across the footnote in the main text of your paper, he or she could look down at your comments right away, or else continue reading the paragraph and read your comments at the end. Because this makes it convenient for your reader, most citation styles require that you use either footnotes or endnotes in your paper. Some, however, allow you to make parenthetical references (author, date) in the body of your work.

      Footnotes are not just for interesting comments, however. Sometimes, they simply refer to relevant sources. In other words, they let your reader know where certain material came from, or where they can look for other sources on the subject.

      To decide whether you should cite your sources in footnotes or in the body of your paper, you should ask your instructor.

      Where does the little footnote mark go?

      Whenever possible, put the footnote at the end of a sentence, immediately following the period or whatever punctuation mark completes that sentence. Skip two spaces after the footnote before you begin the next sentence. If you must include the footnote in the middle of a sentence for the sake of clarity, or because the sentence has more than one footnote (try to avoid this!), try to put it at the end of the most relevant phrase, after a comma or other punctuation mark. Otherwise, put it right at the end of the most relevant word. If the footnote is not at the end of a sentence, skip only one space after it.

      What’s the difference between Footnotes and Endnotes?

      The only real difference is placement – footnotes appear at the bottom of the relevant page, while endnotes all appear at the very end of your document. If your notes are very important, footnotes are more likely to get your reader’s attention. Endnotes, on the other hand, are less intrusive and will not interrupt the flow of your paper.

      If I cite sources in the footnotes (or endnotes), how’s that different from a bibliography?

      In footnotes or endnotes, you are citing sources that are directly relevant to specific passages in your paper. In a bibliography, you are citing all of the sources that you researched, whether they relate to any specific part of your paper or not. So your bibliography might contain “extra” sources which you read, but did not specifically cite in your paper. Also, citations in footnotes or endnotes will always have page numbers, referring to the specific passages relevant to that part of your paper, while citations in bibliographies may have none (if you read an entire book, for example, you would not have to list specific page numbers in your bibliography. If you quoted the book, however, you would have to mention the page numbers in your notes).

      What are “works cited” and “works consulted” pages?

      Sometimes you may be asked to include these – especially if you have used a parenthetical style of citation. A “works cited” page is a list of all the works from which you have borrowed material. Your reader may find this more convenient than footnotes or endnotes because he or she will not have to wade through all of the comments and other information in order to see the sources from which you drew your material. A “works consulted” page is a complement to a “works cited” page, listing all of the works you used, whether they were useful or not.

      Isn’t a “works consulted” page the same as a “bibliography,” then?

      Well, yes. The title is different because “works consulted” pages are meant to complement “works cited” pages, and bibliographies may list other relevant sources in addition to those mentioned in footnotes or endnotes. Choosing to title your bibliography “Works Consulted” or “Selected Bibliography” may help specify the relevance of the sources listed.

  • Quick Citation Overview

    • Throughout your Carleton career and beyond, you will likely be asked to use some form of standard style to format your writing when you are building on the work of others. As you become more familiar with these citation conventions, the specific details of creating citations will become easier.

      The importance of documenting and giving attribution to those whose ideas you use is outlined elsewhere in this guide. Style manuals contain specific instructions on how citations and bibliographies should be formatted for a given style.

      Who and Where

      Learning how to use the campus’ resources can save you from spending fruitless hours searching aimlessly on the internet. The librarians and writing tutors, who often help students with research and writing, will be happy to guide you through creating footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies. You can find librarians at the Research/IT desk and writing tutors in the Writing Center, both of which are on the fourth flour of the Libe.


      The Gould Library and Writing Center have numerous, and often multiple copies of, different style manuals. If your professor gives you the name of a specific style, you can search for the title of the style in our online catalog (Catalyst) accessible from the library’s web site.

      There are three major styles that include instructions on formatting citations and bibliographies:

      MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (MLA) CC Ready Reference LB2369 .G53 2003
      Chicago Manual of Style CC Ready Reference Z253 .U69 2003 (also online through Catalyst)
      Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) CC Ready Reference BF76.7 .P83 2001

      Individual departments and professors often have preferences about which style should be used. These are often identified on your syllabus or on the department’s web site. If it isn’t clear to you which style is appropriate for your assignment, ask your professor.

      Help Using These Styles and More

      • Librarians and writing tutors work with students using a wide variety of citation styles and are happy to help.
      • Citation Management Tools: These tools can help you track and format citations and create bibliographies in many different styles.  We support EndNote, Mendeley, and Zotero. A librarian can help you choose which tool is best for you and help you learn to use it.

      Recommended Books on Style

      If you avoided buying a style manual during the textbook shopping sprees, we encourage you to pore over the reference guides available in the Writing Center:

      • Doing Honest Work in College: How to Prepare Citations, Avoid Plagiarism, and Achieve Real Academic Success

      This manual is especially useful if you need to know the specific styles for biomedical sciences, chemistry, physics, astronomy, math, and computer science, as well as the general ones:

      • The Chicago Manual of Style
      • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Sixth Edition
      • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Fifth Edition
  • Preventing Plagiarism: Resources

    • In a research paper, you have to come up with your own original ideas while at the same time making reference to work that’s already been done by others. But how can you tell where their ideas end and your own begin? What’s the proper way to integrate sources in your paper? If you change some of what an author said, do you still have to cite that person?

      Confusion about the answers to these questions often leads to plagiarism. If you have similar questions, or are concerned about preventing plagiarism, we recommend using the checklist below.

      A. Consult with your instructor

      Have questions about plagiarism? If you can’t find the answers on our site, or are unsure about something, you should ask your instructor. He or she will most likely be very happy to answer your questions. You can also check out the guidelines for citing sources properly. If you follow them, and the rest of the advice on this page, you should have no problems with plagiarism.

      B. Plan your paper

      Planning your paper well is the first and most important step you can take toward preventing plagiarism. If you know you are going to use other sources of information, you need to plan how you are going to include them in your paper. This means working out a balance between the ideas you have taken from other sources and your own, original ideas. Writing an outline, or coming up with a thesis statement in which you clearly formulate an argument about the information you find, will help establish the boundaries between your ideas and those of your sources.

      C. Take effective notes

      One of the best ways to prepare for a research paper is by taking thorough notes from all of your sources, so that you have much of the information organized before you begin writing. On the other hand, poor note-taking can lead to many problems – including improper citations and misquotations, both of which are forms of plagiarism! To avoid confusion about your sources, try using different colored fonts, pens, or pencils for each one, and make sure you clearly distinguish your own ideas from those you found elsewhere. Also, get in the habit of marking page numbers, and make sure that you record bibliographic information or web addresses for every source right away – finding them again later when you are trying to finish your paper can be a nightmare!

      D. When in doubt, cite sources

      Of course you want to get credit for your own ideas. And you don’t want your instructor to think that you got all of your information from somewhere else. But if it is unclear whether an idea in your paper really came from you, or whether you got it from somewhere else and just changed it a little, you should always cite your source. Instead of weakening your paper and making it seem like you have fewer original ideas, this will actually strengthen your paper by: 1) showing that you are not just copying other ideas but are processing and adding to them, 2) lending outside support to the ideas that are completely yours, and 3) highlighting the originality of your ideas by making clear distinctions between them and ideas you have gotten elsewhere.

      E. Make it clear who said what

      Even if you cite sources, ambiguity in your phrasing can often disguise the real source of any given idea, causing inadvertent plagiarism. Make sure when you mix your own ideas with those of your sources that you always clearly distinguish them. If you are discussing the ideas of more than one person, watch out for confusing pronouns. For example, imagine you are talking about Harold Bloom’s discussion of James Joyce’s opinion of Shakespeare, and you write: “He brilliantly portrayed the situation of a writer in society at that time.” Who is the “He” in this sentence? Bloom, Joyce, or Shakespeare? Who is the “writer”: Joyce, Shakespeare, or one of their characters? Always make sure to distinguish who said what, and give credit to the right person.

      F. Know how to paraphrase

      A paraphrase is a restatement in your own words of someone else’s ideas. Changing a few words of the original sentences does NOT make your writing a legitimate paraphrase. You must change both the words and the sentence structure of the original, without changing the content. Also, you should keep in mind that paraphrased passages still require citation because the ideas came from another source, even though you are putting them in your own words.

      The purpose of paraphrasing is not to make it seem like you are drawing less directly from other sources or to reduce the number of quotations in your paper. It is a common misconception among students that you need to hide the fact that you rely on other sources. Actually it is advantageous to highlight the fact that other sources support your own ideas. Using quality sources to support your ideas makes them seem stronger and more valid. Good paraphrasing makes the ideas of the original source fit smoothly into your paper, emphasizing the most relevant points and leaving out unrelated information.

      G. Evaluate your sources

      Not all sources on the web are worth citing – in fact, many of them are just plain wrong. So how do you tell the good ones apart? For starters, make sure you know the author(s) of the page, where they got their information, and when they wrote it (getting this information is also an important step in avoiding plagiarism!). Then you should determine how credible you feel the source is: how well they support their ideas, the quality of the writing, the accuracy of the information provided, etc.

  • Important Terms

    • Attribution: The acknowledgement that something came from another source.

      Bibliography: A list of sources used in preparing a work


      1. A short, formal indication of the source of information or quoted material.
      2. The act of quoting material or the material quoted.


      1. To indicate a source of information or quoted material in a short, formal note.
      2. To quote
      3. To ascribe something to a source

      Common Knowledge: Information that is readily available from a number of sources, or so
      well-known that its sources do not have to be cited.

      Endnotes: Notes at the end of a paper acknowledging sources and providing additional references or

      Facts: Knowledge or information based on real, observable occurrences. Just because something is a fact does not mean it is not the result of original thought, analysis, or research. Facts
      can be considered intellectual property as well. If you discover a fact that is not widely
      known nor readily found in several other places, you should cite the source.

      Footnotes: Notes at the bottom of a paper acknowledging sources or providing additional references or information.

      Fair Use: The guidelines for deciding whether the use of a source is permissible or constitutes a copyright infringement.

      Intellectual Property: A product of the intellect, such as an expressed idea or concept, that has commercial value.

      Notation: The form of a citation; the system by which one refers to cited sources.


      1. Not derived from anything else, new and unique
      2. Markedly departing from previous practice
      3. The first, preceding all others in time
      4. The source from which copies are made

      Paraphrase: A restatement of a text or passage in other words. It is extremely important to note that changing a few words from an original source does NOT qualify as paraphrasing. A paraphrase must make significant changes in the style and voice of the original while retaining the essential ideas. If you change the ideas, then you are not paraphrasing – you are misrepresenting the ideas of the original, which could lead to serious trouble.

      Plagiarism: The reproduction or appropriation of someone else’s work without proper attribution; passing off as one’s own the work of someone else.

      Quotation: Using words from another source

      Self-plagiarism: Copying material you have previously produced and passing it off as a new production. This can potentially violate copyright protection, if the work has been published, and is banned by most academic policies.