Avoiding Plagiarism

This guide provides tips on what constitutes plagiarism as well as tutorials and tips on methods to improve your research skills.


Golden rule: take excellent notes, utilize them effectively, write the entire paper yourself, and document sources well and honestly

Believe It or Not

Changing the words of an original source is not sufficient to prevent plagiarism. If you have retained the essential idea of an original source, and have not cited it, then no matter how drastically you may have altered its context or presentation, you have still plagiarized.


True Plagiarism is Stealing
Each day we take ideas from others without acknowledging the original source. When we talk about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire or say, "To be or not to be, that is the question" in normal conversation, we rarely give credit to Gibbon and Shakespeare. However, plagiarism in research, taking another’s work and passing it off as your own, is quite different. True plagiarism is stealing.

Take Excellent Notes
Plagiarism often stems from sloppy research and subsequent rewriting rather than a deliberate desire to cheat. Nevertheless, even unintentional failure to cite sources correctly and honestly may constitute plagiarism. Many students mistakenly take bad notes during the research process. They write someone else’s text verbatim on a card or on their computer and forget quotation marks. When they write the paper and refer to their notes, they forget the text on the card or computer is another author’s and not their own. Any reader who recognizes the original text believes that the student has cheated. This can lead to tough penalties.

The following is taken from the DeSales University Undergraduate Catalog:

Plagiarism describes the act of copying the ideas, and/or speculations, and/or language of any other person or persons, without acknowledgement, and presenting this material as one's own original work in order to satisfy any academic requirement or complete any academic project. Plagiarism takes place even in the event that a person makes any use of another person's unique and distinctive terminology, whether it be a single word or phrase or extended passage, without acknowledgement. This need not be verbatim use; it is considered plagiarism when a person uses his or her own language to alter the original expression of the ideas or speculations of another person or persons.

Plagiarism also takes place when a person disguises the language of another person or persons by altering the formal elements of the original (e.g., diction, syntax, grammar, punctuation) and submitting it as his or her own, without acknowledgement, to satisfy any academic requirement or complete an academic project.

Plagiarism will be considered to have occurred regardless of the person's intent to deceive.

The following acts will be deemed acts of plagiarism, though the list is not exhaustive:

1. Presenting published or unpublished work prepared by others, or dictated by others, as your own, including papers purchased or borrowed from any person or organization;

2. Presenting, as your own, lab reports or exercises copied from or dictated by others;

3. Presenting, as your own, homework assignments of any kind copied from or dictated by others;

4. Presenting, as your own, oral reports copied from or dictated by others;

5. Incorporating formal lecture notes into your own work without acknowledgement and presenting them as your own;

6. Presenting, as your own, a computer solution developed by someone else;

7. Copying the ideas, and/or speculations, and/or language of any other person or persons, without acknowledgement, and presenting this as one's own work.