the unacknowledged use of somebody else’s words

or ideas


Actions that might be seen as plagiarism:

  • buying, stealing, or borrowing a paper
  • using the source too closely when paraphrasing
  • building on someone’s ideas without citation
  • hiring someone to write your paper
  • copying from another source without citing


**  Since teachers may not distinguish between deliberate and accidental plagiarism, the heart of avoiding plagiarism is to make sure you give credit where it is due. **


Choosing When to Give Credit

You need to document when:

  • you are using or referring to somebody else’s words or ideas from a magazine, book, newspaper, song, web page, etc.
  • you use information gained from an interview.
  • you copy the exact words or a “unique phrase.”
  • you reprint diagrams, illustration, charts, etc.

You do not need to document when:

  • you are writing your own experiences, observations, thoughts, or conclusions about a subject.
  • you are using common knowledge, common sense, or shared information.
  • you are compiling generally accepted facts.
  • you are writing up your own experimental results.



Making Sure You Are Safe

When researching, note-taking, and interviewing:

  • mark everything that is someone else’s words with quotation marks or a big Q.
  • label which notes are taken from sources (S) and which are your own (M).
  • record all relevant documentation in your notes (name, publisher, date, page numbers, etc.).

When paraphrasing and summarizing:

  • write your paraphrase and summary without looking at the    original text, so you rely only on your memory.
  • check your version with the original for content, accuracy, and mistakenly borrowed phrases.

Deciding if something is “common knowledge”

Material is probably common knowledge if . . .

  • you find the same information undocumented in at least five other sources.
  • you think it is information that your readers will already know.
  • you think a person could easily find the information with general reference sources.