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Plagiarism: Avoiding Plagiarism

If you have questions, ask them!

When in doubt, don't be afraid to ask for help.  As a student at Marist College, you have help available to you at the James A. Cannavino Library and at the Writing Center.  Citations can be difficult and the consequences of even accidentally plagiarizing can be serious.  Of course, you can ask your professor, too! 

When is a Citation Needed?

Any language or information that you take from an outside source must be cited.  The only exception to this is general or common knowledge.*

What is General Knowledge?

"Common or general knowledge is information that is presumed to be shared by a group of people.  For example, George Washington was the first president of the United States.  No particular individual can claim to own that piece of knowledge.  Generally, if you can find the information in five or more sources, it is considered common knowledge.  Any statement that originates from another source and contains information that is NOT common knowledge MUST be cited.  For example: Chinese fishing industry produces 800,000 tons of fish annually.  This example would need a citation because it expresses information that is not commonly known.  However, this example, while necessary to cite, does not include quotes because it is not in the author’s exact words."

 "Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Research." Champlain College Library. Web. 20 Mar 2012.  <>.

*Even if the information is common knowledge, if you take language directly from a source, it must still be cited.

Bibliographies, Footnotes and Endnotes

To avoid plagiarism, you must list your sources in two ways.  

  • Bibliography - A bibliography is a listing of all sources used in a book or a paper.  These sources are listed alphabetically.  Bibliographies can be very useful to you as a researcher, as they list further sources addressing your topic of interest.
  • Footnotes or Endnotes -  Footnotes or endnotes (you will be using one or the other) are used throughout the paper.  Footnotes are found at the bottom of the page, and endnotes are found at the end of a paper or a chapter.  These notes are pointers throughout the text to show exactly which sources were used to obtain particular pieces of information.  These notes are listed in order of use.  Footnotes and endnotes are useful because they allow readers to follow specific passages back to their source material.

Be sure to check a citation style guide to see how to create a bibliography and use footnotes or end-notes in each particular style (MLA, Chicago, Turabian, APA).

Know the difference between Plagiarism, Paraphrasing and Quotation

  • Plagiarism includes the use of someone else's words or idea without giving proper credit and citations.
  • To avoid using another author's words, a student may paraphrase by putting an idea into their own words, but the idea must still be credited to the original author on a citation.
  • Any exact words or unique phrases are taken from a source must be indicated by the use of quotation marks.
  • Phrases contained within quotation marks must be exactly as they appear in the original text.
  • Even if an idea is public knowledge, if the phrasing is taken from an outside source it must be indicated by use of quotation marks and citations.

From Purdue OWL:

Why use quotations, paraphrases, and summaries?

Quotations, paraphrases, and summaries serve many purposes. You might use them to . . .

  • Provide support for claims or add credibility to your writing
  • Refer to work that leads up to the work you are now doing
  • Give examples of several points of view on a subject
  • Call attention to a position that you wish to agree or disagree with
  • Highlight a particularly striking phrase, sentence, or passage by quoting the original
  • Distance yourself from the original by quoting it in order to cue readers that the words are not your own
  • Expand the breadth or depth of your writing

More tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Take complete notes that mark where the information is coming from and any words or phrases taken directly from source material.
  • Keep citations as you go.
  • Always use quotation marks when using unique words or phrases found in your source material
  • Make sure you have enough sources.  Relying too heavily on one or two sources is a recipe for plagiarism.
  • Synthesize information from your sources and apply it to your own thesis.
  • Leave yourself enough time to do your own work.