Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Avoiding Plagiarism: Home

Adapted from NOVA Plagiarism


Everyone knows that directly copying another author's work is plagiarism, but there are also less obvious forms of plagiarism.  Plagiarism takes many forms and the consequences can be severe, so it pays to be well informed.  The consequences for accidental plagiarism can be just as severe as those for intentional plagiarism!  This guide will help you understand and avoid all forms of plagiarism, especially those that a well-meaning student might engage in unintentionally.

Use the tabs above to navigate through this guide.

What is Plagiarism?

The simple definition: Plagiarism is copying an author's work and passing it off as your own.

This definition may seem simple, but plagiarism can be much more complicated.  Did you know that you could be held responsible for plagiarism if you paraphrase (i.e., to put in your own words) an author's work without providing a citation?  Even if you cite your source, if paraphrasing is not done correctly, you could still be plagiarizing.  This guide will illustrate situations that might be considered plagiarism.

Why Bother Citing?

The purpose of college-level research is to locate and analyze literature created by experts in your field, then process all of the information that you found to create your own new ideas or conclusions. Citations are important, because they give credit to the authors who helped you develop your ideas.  Citations also give your paper authority, because they show that you have read literature on the topic and that your conclusions build upon work of other authors. When you provide proper citations, your professors will see that you understand the purpose of college-level research.

When in Doubt, Ask a Librarian

Plagiarism is a tricky topic for many students, but two rules will help guide you:

1. When in doubt, cite it!  There are some cases where you may not need to cite (e.g., common knowledge [explained later]), but plagiarism is a "better safe than sorry" situation.  If you are not sure whether a source needs to be cited, go ahead and cite it!

2. Ask a librarian!  Librarians are the citation/plagiarism experts and are happy to help you.  This guide will explain some of the general concepts of plagiarism, but you might still be unsure of what to do in your particular case.  Ask a librarian in person, by phone or via the chat box to the right.

Subject Guide