Plagiarism

What does my teacher mean when he says, “Don’t forget to cite your sources!” 

Citing refers to giving credit to sources. For example, if you read an article and think one paragraph would be great for your paper, rewording (a.k.a. paraphrasing) that paragraph does not make it your idea. The idea remains that of the author of that article. 

If you quote, summarize, or paraphrase anything, you must cite it. 

How do I cite a source? 

Some common citation styles include MLA, APA, Chicago, or CBE. Different disciplines may require or prefer different formats, but all require that you have a list of the sources used, or a Works Cited, on a separate page at the end of your paper. 

In your paper, you need a way to identify what information is from other people. Look at the following example: 

The main character in the story was insane. Despite her reliance on medication and therapy sessions, Edna remained harmful to herself and others. Some believed she was possessed. 

When “some believed” appears, I immediately think, “Where did you get this information?” To fix this, use a parenthetical citation with the author’s last name and page number, if it has one. If you were using parenthetical citation, you would write: 

Some believed she was possessed (Smith 20). 

  • This citation tells me that, on the Works Cited page at the end, I will find an entry for Smith with the information about the book in which this was said. 
  • Notice that the period follows the parenthesis. If it does not, the reader would is confused. Why? If the period were placed after “possessed,” I would not know if you were indicating that Smith is the source for this sentence or the next sentence. 

If you “borrow” information from a friend’s paper, you are plagiarizing. If you rewrite passages from different websites in your own words and don’t cite the sources, you are plagiarizing. But remember that quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing sources should NOT make up your entire paper. 

Most teachers want you to have a strong thesis statement in your introductory paragraph. Many may want you to follow the I.S.E. method of paragraph development: 

Introduce your topic sentence. 

Support your idea with examples, data, etc. 

Explain why and/or how your support is relevant (why you chose to include this information over other information & how it relates to your paper’s purpose). 

If you merely gather information from sources and fill your pages with sources, you have not succeeded in the task. Your goal is to analyze the information by noticing a relationship between the information. For example, does increasing the drinking age lower the amount of drunken drivers on the road? Why or why not? (Record your thoughts before you decide where you stand on an issue. Then research to find support to strengthen your statements.) 

Obviously, papers that are lifted right off the internet are plagiarized; however, other forms of plagiarism may be accidental. For example, one student wrote: 

The price of gasoline was increasing rapidly. As a result, the utilities were forced to increase their prices. 

This may sound okay, but the original passage is as follows: 

The price of gasoline was increasing quickly, so utility companies had to raise their prices. 

In order to avoid plagiarism while paraphrasing, students need to restructure the sentences instead of simply finding synonyms for words and leaving the sentence in the same structure. 

Due to a shrinking supply and increasing demand for gasoline, consumers will be paying more for their utilities. 

**Remember that simply quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing your entire paper is not okay—even if you cite your sources. To learn more, visit the Writing Lab for information on using sources. 

Why should I avoid plagiarizing? 

Plagiarizing is cheating. Teachers can fail you on the assignment or give you a failing grade for the course for plagiarizing. In addition, plagiarizing is placed on your permanent record (where other colleges and even employers can see it) and can result in you being expelled from the university.