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Academic Integrity

A guide to help students understand academic integrity and avoid plagiarism.

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

(Source: Bainbridge State College)

How Do You Avoid Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the most common type of scholastic dishonesty as well as the most easily avoidable.


Give Yourself Enough Time

The temptation to cheat and accidents often happen when you are rushed. Always allow yourself plenty of time to research and complete your assignment. Do not procrastinate!

Take Detailed Notes as You Read

It is easy to forget where information came from. Take complete, detailed notes while researching, including keeping track of sources (e.g., author's name and page number) alongside information you are considering using in your assignment. If you take something word-for-word, immediately put quotation marks around it so you do not forget later. 

Know How to Format Your Sources

Formatting citations is difficult for most students. Take advantage of the numerous citation management resources available online that can help you easily create citations as well as bibliographies. For more one-on-one help, writing tutors and librarians are available.

Cite Borrowed Information

Any information that you borrow for an assignment needs to be cited. This includes textual information as well as images, graphics, data, videos, and anything else that you did not create.

Use Your Own Thoughts

It is easy to become too dependent on using information from your sources. Your assignment should contain a balance of information from your sources (e.g., quotations, paraphrases, and summaries) and your own original thoughts.

Get Your Questions Answered

Uncertainty usually leads to mistakes. There are many resources at your disposal to answer any questions you have, including books, web resources, writing tutors, librarians, and your professor. If you have a question, ask it!

Quote/Paraphrase/Summarize It Right!

When to Cite Your Sources

When you include information in an assignment that you did not create, you need to cite your source. This includes:

  • Someone else's ideas in their exact words (i.e., direct quotes)
  • Someone else's ideas explained in your words (i.e., paraphrases and summaries)
  • Someone else's data, images, or media (e.g., maps, graphs, charts, pictures, videos, etc.)

You do not need to cite:

  • Your thoughts, arguments, and interpretations
  • Your analyses or criticisms of someone else's ideas
  • Common knowledge (See "Common Knowledge" Tab)

Note: All citations used in examples are MLA (7th ed.).


Web Resources:

What is a Direct Quote?

A direct quote is a small segment of text from a source document that matches the original text identically, or word-for-word.

How to Format a Direct Quote

Properly formatting a direct quote is critical. Follow these tips for proper formatting:

  • Place quotation marks (" ") around the entire passage you are quoting.
  • Use an in-text citation and bibliographic citation in accordance with the citation style your professor has required you to use.
  • For longer quoted passages, check your citation style guide for additional formatting requirements (e.g., block quotation).
Example:

Original Text from Source Document

Nearly half (46%) of American adults are smartphone owners as of February 2012, an increase of 11 percentage points over the 35% of Americans who owned a smartphone last May. (68)

Smith, Aaron. "Smartphone Ownership is Growing." Smartphones. Ed. Roman Espejo. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. 67-71. Print.

Direct Quote

Smartphone ownership continues to increase with "nearly half (46%) of American adults" owning smartphones (Smith 68).

When to Use a Direct Quote

You should use a direct quote if:

  • you cannot retain the meaning of the text through summarizing or paraphrasing;
  • the passage's exact phrasing adds more meaning to your argument;
  • you want to appeal to the authority of the author by using their exact phrasing; or
  • you are analyzing or critiquing a specific passage.

Keep in mind that direct quotes should be used sparingly and only when the above circumstances arise.


Web Resources:

What is a Paraphrase?

A paraphrase is a restatement of text from a source document. The text has been restructured and reworded into your own words; however, it still possesses the same meaning and important details as the original text.

How to Format a Paraphrase

Properly formatting a paraphrase is relatively simple. Follow these tips for proper formatting:

  • You do not need to use quotation marks around the passage since you are changing both the sentence structure and the language used in the original text.
  • Use an in-text citation and bibliographic citation in accordance with the citation style your professor has required you to use.
Example:

Original Text from Source Document

Nearly half (46%) of American adults are smartphone owners as of February 2012, an increase of 11 percentage points over the 35% of Americans who owned a smartphone last May. (68)

Smith, Aaron. "Smartphone Ownership is Growing." Smartphones. Ed. Roman Espejo. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. 67-71. Print.

Paraphrase

In 2012, the number of adults in America who own smartphones reached nearly 50% (Smith 68).

When to Use a Paraphrase

You should use a paraphrase if:

  • your argument requires some details that cannot be expressed through a summary but are not specific enough to require a direct quote; or
  • the meaning of the passage or section of text you wish to lost will not be lost through rewording or restructuring the text.

Keep in mind that you must change the structure AND wording of the original text. If you do one but not the other (e.g., switching the words in the original text with synonyms), this is not paraphrasing-- it is plagiarism.


Web Resources:

What is a Summary?

A summary is a short overview of the main idea(s) or plot from a source document. Similar to a paraphrase, a summary involves rewriting source material in your own words; however, the details included in a summary are much broader and generalized.

How to Format a Summary

Properly formatting a summary is very similar to formatting a paraphrase. Follow these tips for proper formatting:

  • You do not need to use quotation marks around the passage since you are not using any of the original text.
  • Use an in-text citation and bibliographic citation in accordance with the citation style your professor has required you to use.
Example:

This is a summary of Aaron Smith's five page chapter on the growth of smart phone ownership in the United States.

Smith, Aaron. "Smartphone Ownership is Growing." Smartphones. Ed. Roman Espejo. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. 67-71. Print.

Summary

Aaron Smith reports that smartphones are becoming more and more popular among Americans.

When to Use a Summary

You should use a summary if:

  • you do not require specific details from a source document;
  • you want to provide an overview of the key points or plot from a source document; or
  • you want to provide information that is complimentary to your argument (e.g., background information).

Web Resources:

What is Common Knowledge?

Common knowledge generally refers to information that most people know. Common knowledge does not require a citation.

Examples:
  • George Washington was the first president of the United States.
  • Orange juice is a good source of vitamin C.
  • 1 is less than 10.
  • China is a country in Asia.

Be Careful!

The criteria for determining what is and what is not common knowledge can be somewhat unclear. If you have any concerns about whether or not information is common knowledge, ask your professor, ask a librarian, or cite it.

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Citation Management Resources

There are many citation management resources available to you to make citing your sources easier. Please note that you should always double check any citation created using a free tool.