There are few intellectual offenses more serious than plagiarism in academic and professional contexts. This resource offers advice on how to avoid plagiarism in your work.
Contributors:Karl Stolley, Allen Brizee, Joshua M. Paiz
Last Edited: 2018-03-07 02:44:07
Most students, of course, don't intend to plagiarize. In fact, most realize that citing sources actually builds their credibility for an audience and even helps writers to better grasp information relevant to a topic or course of study. Mistakes in citation and crediting can still happen, so here are certain practices that can help you not only avoid plagiarism, but even improve the efficiency and organization of your research and writing.
Best Practices for Research and Drafting
Reading and note-taking
- In your notes, always mark someone else's words with a big Q, for quote, or use big quotation marks
- Indicate in your notes which ideas are taken from sources with a big S, and which are your own insights (ME)
- When information comes from sources, record relevant documentation in your notes (book and article titles; URLs from the internet)
Interviewing and conversing
- Take lots of thorough notes; if you have any of your own thoughts as you're interviewing, mark them clearly.
- If your subject will allow you to record the conversation or interview (and you have proper clearance to do so through an Institutional Review Board, or IRB), place your recording device in an optimal location between you and the speaker so you can hear clearly when you review the recordings. Test your equipment, and bring plenty of backup batteries and backup equipment.
- If you're interviewing via email, retain copies of the interview subject's emails as well as the ones you send in reply.
- Make any additional, clarifying notes immediately after the interview has concluded.
Writing paraphrases or summaries
- Use a statement that credits the source somewhere in the paraphrase or summary (e.g., According to Jonathan Kozol, ...).
- If you're having trouble summarizing, try writing your paraphrase or summary of a text without looking at the original, relying only on your memory and notes.
- Check your paraphrase or summary against the original text; correct any errors in content accuracy, and be sure to use quotation marks to set off any exact phrases from the original text.
- Check your paraphrase or summary against sentence and paragraph structure, as copying those is also considered plagiarism.
- Put quotation marks around any unique words or phrases that you cannot or do not want to change: e.g., "savage inequalities" exist throughout our educational system (Kozol).
Writing direct quotations
- Keep the source author's name in the same sentence as the quote.
- Mark the quote with quotation marks, or set it off from your text in its own block, per the style guide your paper follows.
- Quote no more material than is necessary; if a short phrase from a source will suffice, don't quote an entire paragraph.
- To shorten quotes by removing extra information, use ellipsis points (...) to indicate omitted text, keeping in mind that:
- In longer quotes where you have omitted a sentence in between other complete sentences, maintain terminal puncutation in between the ellipses.
- Example: "None of the national reports I saw made even passing references to inequality or segregation. . . Booker T. Washington was cited with increasing frequency, Du Bois never, and Martin Luther King only with cautious selectivity." (Kozol 3).
- To give context to a quote or otherwise add wording to it, place added words in brackets, (  ); be careful not to editorialize or make any additions that skew the original meaning of the quote—do that in your main text, e.g.,
- OK: Kozol claims there are "savage inequalities" in our educational system, which is obvious.
- WRONG: Kozol claims there are "[obvious] savage inequalities" in our educational system.
- Use quotes that will have the most rhetorical, argumentative impact in your paper; too many direct quotes from sources may weaken your credibility, as though you have nothing to say yourself, and will certainly interfere with your style
Writing about another's ideas
- Note the name of the idea's originator in the sentence or throughout a paragraph about the idea.
- Use parenthetical citations, footnotes, or endnotes to refer readers to additional sources about the idea, as necessary.
- Be sure to use quotation marks around key phrases or words that the idea's originator used to describe the idea.
Maintaining drafts of your paper
Sometimes innocent, hard-working students are accused of plagiarism because a dishonest student steals their work. This can happen in all kinds of ways, from a roommate copying files off of your computer, to someone finding files on a USB drive left in a computer lab. Here are some practices to keep your own intellectual property safe:
- Do not save your paper in the same file over and over again; use a numbering system and the Save As... function; E.g., you might have research_paper001.doc, research_paper002.doc, research_paper003.doc as you progress. Do the same thing for any online files you are working with. Having multiple draft versions may help prove that the work is yours (assuming you are being ethical in how you cite ideas in your work!).
- Maintain copies of your drafts in numerous media, and different secure locations when possible; don't just rely on your hard drive, USB drive, or the cloud.
- Password-protect your computer; if you have to leave a computer lab for a quick bathroom break, lock or log out of your station.
- Password-protect your files; this is possible in all sorts of programs, from Adobe Acrobat to Microsoft word (just be sure not to forget the password!).
- When working in cloud-based platforms, like Box, or Google Drive, be sure to save multiple separate drafts of your work, rather than just editing over the original.
Revising, proofreading, and finalizing your paper
- Proofread and cross-check with your notes and sources to make sure that anything coming from an outside source is acknowledged in some combination of the following ways:
- In-text citation, otherwise known as parenthetical citation
- Footnotes or endnotes
- Bibliography, References, or Works Cited pages
- Quotation marks around short quotes; longer quotes set off by themselves, as prescribed by a research and citation style guide
- Indirect quotations: citing a source that cites another source
- If you have any questions about citation, ask your instructor well in advance of your paper's due date, so if you have to make any adjustments to your citations, you have the time to do them well.
Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1992. Print.
This page will show some of the unique references you may encounter and have difficulty citing, with examples of how to properly write the according in-text citation. Check out the basic in-text citation format required for APA here. If you have any further questions feel free to stop by the Center for Writing & Communication, email us, or give us a quick call!
APA style references are cited in-text using an author–date citation system. The year should appear next to the author’s name. If you’ve identified the author previously in the sentence, you do not need include the author’s name in the in-text citation, unless you are talking about multiple sources in one paragraph and wish to use an in-text citation to avoid any possible confusion. In APA style, the date of publication is very important. Researchers want to know you have read the very latest research.
Two Authors Cite both authors’ names every time you use them in a sentence or a citation, separated by an ampersand (&) when in parenthesis, but “and” when in the actually body of the text.
- Smith and Jones (1995) found…. and then (Smith & Jones, 1995).
Three-Five Authors Cite all authors’ names the first time the citations appears; for the rest of the citations, include only the first author’s last name followed by “et al.” and the year.
- Smith, Jones, and Robins (2000) found… (Smith et al., 2000).
Six or More Authors Cite only the last name of the first author followed by “et al.” and the year for ALL in-text citations, including the first one.
- Smith et al. (2011) found… and then (Smith et al., 2011)
**Note: If two citations share last names, include as many names as necessary until the citations are distinguishable.
- Smith, Jones, and Robins (2000) found…; Smith, Jones, and Tanner (2000) also discovered…
Quotation that Runs More Than 40 Words
If your quote if longer in length, then the quote begins on a separate line after the lead-in phrase, is indented 5 spaces, does not use quotation marks, locates the parenthetical note after the period, and is continuously double-spaced like the rest of the paper would be.
Murray (2009) writes:
I have had a fascination with psychology ever since I can remember. I think my first experience with chemistry happened when I was four years old, and my mother gave me a handful of baking powder and told me to pour vinegar over it to see what would happen. Magic. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Groups as Authors
Sometimes the names of groups as authors are occasionally abbreviated; be sure to include enough information that the reference entry is easily recognizable. For short group names, or if the abbreviation wouldn’t be recognizable as the same name, spell the group name out every time.
Include the initials of the authors’ first names if more than one author has the same last name, even if there are different publication dates.
Author Known, No Year Known
“N.d.” stands for “no date.” Use this when you’ve made a good faith effort to locate the year of publication. This often happens when citing electronic publications.
- Jones (n.d.), writes that educators should consider studying cognitive science (Professional Development section, para. 18).
Refer to the title when no author is attributed. This title is shortened from “Empirical Research in the Elementary Classroom.”
- According to “Empirical Research” (2009), teachers can employ the scientific method in their classrooms to study different aspects of the learning process (p. 18).
Citing a Long Title
The title is shortened from “Unlikely Source of New Teachers”; long titles should be shortened in ways that are logical.
- According to an article in Newsweek (2009), more and more retirees are becoming teachers as a way of giving back to their communities (“Unlikely Source,” p. 18).
Author Unknown, No Date, No Page Numbers (Quotation)
As stated on the PRSA website, “For more than a decade, PRSA’s leaders have brought attention to the issue of diversity in the public relations profession” (PRSA Diversity Efforts section, n.d., para. 1).
A source is considered secondary when an author refers to another author’s publication. For example, let’s say you’re reading a book on treatment plans written by Allred who quotes Jones, who wrote a book on education and the scientific method. You would format your citation as follows:
- Jones reports that the scientific method is a valuable tool in teacher research (as cited in Allred, 2009).
Interviews, Email, and Other Personal Communication
Cite interviews, emails, and other personal communication list in text.
- Martens concurs that it’s important for students to understand the very rhetorical nature
of a résumé (personal communication, September 29, 2011).
If citing two or more works in one set of parentheses, organize them alphabetically per the reference list (or by year if the author is the same), separated by a semi-colon.
- (Jones 2011; Smith, 1996, 2000)