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Avoiding Plagiarism


Using Information Accurately and Honestly


Plagiarism is defined as presenting someone else’s words or ideas as your own.

In order to avoid plagiarism, you must document any information found in an outside source with both an internal citation and a bibliography/ works cited page:   

“Whenever you paraphrase, summarize, or take words, phrases, or sentences from another person’s work, it is necessary to indicate the source of the information within your paper by using an internal citation.  It is not enough to just list the source in a bibliography at the end of your paper.  Failing to properly quote, cite, or acknowledge someone else’s words or ideas with an internal citation is plagiarism” (“What Is Plagiarism?”).


Internal Citations

When using information from an outside source in your work, the following errors are considered plagiarism:

1.     “Failing to cite quotations or borrowed ideas” where you use them in your paper

2.     “Failing to include borrowed language in quotation marks”

3.     “Failing to put summarized and paraphrased information in your own words” (Hacker 107). 


What Information Needs to be Cited?

- Videos or audio clips (i.e. Youtube videos)

- Images (photos, cartoons, illustrations, charts, diagrams, advertisements, etc.)

- Interviews you conduct in person or in writing

- Any idea you find in a book, magazine, newspaper, TV show, movie, song, Web page, etc.

- “Any words, ideas, or other productions that originate somewhere outside of you”

(“Is It Plagiarism Yet?”).


The exception to this rule is information that is common knowledge or generally-accepted fact.  This would be information that is easily found in general sources, such as “folklore, common sense observations, myths, urban legends, and historical events (but not historical documents)” (“Is It Plagiarism Yet?”). 

The ideas that the earth revolves around the sun or that George Washington was America’s first president are considered common knowledge and do not need to be cited, nor do generally-accepted facts, such as pollution is bad for the environment or smoking is bad for your health (“Is It Plagiarism Yet?”).


Tips for Creating Internal Citations & Avoiding Plagiarism:

1.     Quote Borrowed Wording Correctly:

Make sure that you use quotation marks around any sentences, phrases, or unique wording that you record exactly from a source.  Failing to use quotation marks around borrowed words “is to claim—falsely—that the language is your own. Such an omission is plagiarism even if you have cited the source” (Hacker 108).

2.     Put Summaries and Paraphrases into Your Own Words

When summarizing or paraphrasing information, “you must name the source and restate the source’s meaning in your own language.  You commit plagiarism if you half-copy the author’s sentences—either by mixing the author’s phrases with your own without quotation marks or by plugging your synonyms into the author’s sentence structure” (Hacker 109).

3.   Always remember to include an internal citation and list each source in your works cited!


How to Write In-Text Citations

To cite borrowed information, MLA format asks you to name an author and a page number, if given.  You can either name the author in a signal phrase, or you can name the author in parentheses at the end of the sentence along with the page number.


Examples of quoted information:

Philosopher Claire Smith states, “There are no new ideas in the world today.  Everything has already been thought and done and is now only being repeated” (42).

One philosopher believes that “there are no new ideas in the world today” (Smith 42). 


Example of paraphrased information:

Philosopher Claire Smith explains that modern society lacks original thought; the actions and ideas we see today are merely past ideas that have been regurgitated and recycled (42).


Link to more instructions for in-text citations.  

See an example MLA formatted paper with in-text citations and a corresponding works cited page.


Works Cited

Hacker, Diana.  A Pocket Style Manual.  7th ed.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. Print.

“Is It Plagiarism Yet?”  Purdue Online Writing Lab.  Purdue University.  Web.  2 Dec. 2013.

“What Is Plagiarism?” The Plagiarism Tutorial. University Libraries, The University of Southern Mississippi.  Web.  2 Dec. 2013.