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Avoiding Plagiarism

Last modified: June 22, 2015

Avoiding Plagiarism - Overview

What is plagiarism and why is it important?

In college courses, we are continually engaged with other people's ideas: we read them in texts, hear them in lecture, discuss them in class, and incorporate them into our own writing. As a result, it is very important that we give credit where it is due.

Plagiarism is using others' ideas and words without clearly acknowledging the source of that information.

To avoid plagiarism, you must give credit whenever you use:

  • another person's idea, opinion, or theory;
  • any facts, statistics, graphs, drawings--any pieces of information--that are not common knowledge;
  • quotations of another person's actual spoken or written words; or
  • paraphrase of another person's spoken or written words

The information presented on this page will help you avoid accidental plagiarism.

Last modified: July 23, 2014

Avoiding Plagiarism - Paraphrasing


Being able to recognize the differences between acceptable and unacceptable paraphrasing will help you avoid unintentional plagiarism. 

The example below will help you learn how to avoid unintentional plagiarism when paraphrasing.

Adapted from: Plagiarism; What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It ,  by The Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, with their gracious permission. Plagiarism and Appropriate Use (PDF pamphlet) 

Here's the original text, from page 1 of Lizzie Borden: A Case Book of Family and Crime in the 1890s by Joyce Williams et al.:

The rise of industry, the growth of cities, and the expansion of the population were the three great developments of late nineteenth century American history. As new, larger, steam-powered factories became a feature of the American landscape in the East, they transformed farm hands into industrial laborers, and provided jobs for a rising tide of immigrants. With industry came urbanization the growth of large cities (like Fall River, Massachusetts, where the Bordens lived) which became the centers of production as well as of commerce and trade.

Here's an unacceptable paraphrase:

The increase of industry, the growth of cities, and the explosion of the population were three large factors of nineteenth century America. As steam-driven companies became more visible in the eastern part of the country, they changed farm hands into factory workers and provided jobs for the large wave of immigrants. With industry came the growth of large cities like Fall River where the Bordens lived which turned into centers of commerce and trade as well as production.

What makes this passage plagiarism?

This is unacceptable paraphrasing because the writer has:

  • only changed around a few words and phrases
  • only changed the order of the original's sentences
  • failed to cite a source for any of the ideas or facts

NOTE: This example is also problematic because it changes the sense of several sentences (for example, "steam-driven companies" in the second sentence misses the original's emphasis on factories).

Here's an acceptable paraphrase:

Fall River, where the Borden family lived, was typical of northeastern industrial cities of the nineteenth century. Steam-powered production had shifted labor from agriculture to manufacturing, and as immigrants arrived in the US, they found work in these new factories. As a result, populations grew, and large urban areas arose. Fall River was one of these manufacturing and commercial centers (Williams 1).

Why is this passage acceptable?

This is acceptable paraphrasing because the writer:

  • accurately relays the information in the original uses his/her own words
  • lets the reader know the source of his/her information

Here's an another acceptable paraphrase, using a quotation and paraphrase together:

Fall River, where the Borden family lived, was typical of northeastern industrial cities of the nineteenth century. As steam-powered production shifted labor from agriculture to manufacturing, the demand for workers "transformed farm hands into factory workers," and created jobs for immigrants. In turn, growing populations increased the size of urban areas. Fall River was one of these manufacturing hubs that were also "centers of commerce and trade" (Williams 1)

Why is this passage acceptable?

This is acceptable paraphrasing because the writer:

  • records the information in the original passage accurately
  • gives credit for the ideas in this passage
  • indicated which part is taken directly from his/her source by putting the passage in quotation marks and citing the page number

Strategies for avoiding plagiarism

1. Put in quotations everything that comes directly from the text especially when taking notes.

2. When you paraphrase be sure you are not just rearranging or replacing a few words. Instead, read over what you want to paraphrase carefully; cover up the text with your hand, or close the text so you can't see any of it (and so aren't tempted to use the text as a "guide"). Write out the idea in your own words without peeking.

3. Check your paraphrase against the original text to be sure you have not accidentally used the same phrases or words, and that the information is accurate.

Last modified: September 30, 2014

Avoiding Plagiarism - Citing


APA Guide

Chicago Guide

MLA Guide

Citing References in Your Paper (University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center)
Covers APA, Chicago/Turabian, MLA, APSA and CBE styles.

Subject Specific Citation Guides

Tools to help you create citations

RefWorks allows you to import citations from many library databases, or input them manually, and then create bibliographies in your desired style format. Write-n-Cite is a related software that works within MS Word to access citations stored in RefWorks and create create footnotes and a bibliography. See our RefWorks Guide.

EndNote Web
A bibliographic management program that will help you:

  • Collect and import references from online databases.
  • Organize your references for your research topics and papers.
  • Create a formatted bibliography for your paper or cite references while you write.

All UA staff, students, and faculty are eligible for a free EndNote Web account.

Citation Builder: NCSU Libraries
The NCSU Libraries Citation Builder is a web-based tool designed to quickly and easily generate citations for sources consulted during the research process.

Last modified: September 30, 2014

Avoiding Plagiarism - Tutorials

Accidental Plagiarism - Don't Let it Happen to You

Interactive, self-paced tutorial designed to teach you how to avoid accidental plagiarism by understanding how it can occur and how to avoid it through correct use of paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting of resources. A brief, instantly assessed quiz is included.

Plagiarism Game

This game created by Lycoming College tests your knowledge of plagiarism in a fun, interactive way. You can print the last screen as proof of completion.


Last modified: September 30, 2014