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Plagiarism (and how to avoid it): How can you avoid plagiarism?

Definition of plagiarism, examples, and guidance on ethical use of sources.

Avoid Plagiarism: Quote, Paraphrase, or Summarize

Quote: Use the Author’s Exact Language

Tips for using quotations:

  • Use quotes only when the exact wording is important to retain meaning, or you think it is important to use the author's original words in your paper.
  • Don't overuse quotations; use them to emphasize a point or support your argument.
  • Avoid long quotations when a short one will suffice.
  • Don't take quotations out of context to misrepresent the original author's opinion.
  • Be certain you understand any technical terms the author uses.
  • Always introduce your quotations with a signal phrase, such as "according to Smith" or other means of contextualizing them.
  • Use a variety of sources. If all of the quotes used come from one source, you are limiting your credibility and lack support for your claims.

Paraphrase: Restate in Your Own Words

Tips for paraphrasing: 

  • Change the phrasing (not just a couple of words).
  • Keep/preserve the focus or author's intent intact.
  • Cite the source you used to get the information even though you put it into your own words.

Summarize: Create a Brief synopsis of the Content

Tips for summarizing:

  • Make sure you understand what your source is saying.
  • Capture the main points in your own words.

Do this when space limitations are an issue.

​​​​​​​Video: Avoiding Plagiarism

Cite Your Sources

Quote, Paraphrase, Summarize, then Cite

When you quote, paraphrase, or summarize information from another source, usually you need to acknowledge the author of that source with a citation.

When do you need to cite?

  • When you copy, paraphrase, or summarize from another source (including your own work)
  • When you use artwork, graphics, or data created by someone else
  • When you incorporate digital media into your project

When don't you need to cite?

  • When writing your own (unpublished) thoughts, experiences, or conclusions 
  • When using your own artwork, graphics, or data
  • When you are including common knowledge information

Plagiarism Decision Chart

Did you use somebody else's thoughts, words, ideas, or images?



If you do this without citing the source it's plagiarism! So far, so good!

Did you copy text word-for-word?

Did you use your previous work?





This is a direct quote. Place it in quotation marks, and include an in-text or parenthetical citation. Did you put the information in your own words? If you don't cite it, then it's self-plagiarism! Include an in-text or parenthetical citation for your work. No worries!


  This is a paraphrase. Include an in-text or parenthetical citation.    
If you answered yes to any questions above, in addition to the in-text or parenthetical citation you will need to create a full citation for each source and place it at the end of your paper in your bibliography, Works Cited, or References page.
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