Skip Navigation LinksRio Salado College / Library / Tutorials / Avoiding Plagiarism

Contact Us

Fax Documents
480-517-8449
In-Person Library
Mon-Thur: 8am - 7pm
Friday: 9am - 5pm
Saturday: 9am - 2pm

Address
Rio Tower, 5th floor
2323 W. 14th Street
Tempe, AZ 85281

Avoiding Plagiarism

Most students would never intentionally steal objects. All too often, however, they steal another writer's ideas and words—they plagiarize. To be fair and to avoid even the appearance of plagiarism, always use your own words and generously credit your sources.

Be careful when you use research that others have done.

Only information that is widely available from a variety of sources—such as historic facts and geographic data—can be used without giving credit.

For example, if you were writing a research paper on earthquakes and you wanted to do some comparing of California earthquakes to others throughout history, you could find and use the dates and locations of other major earthquakes without referencing a specific source because similar information is available from any number of sources. If, however, you wanted to use a person's story about an earthquake, an analysis of the cause of an earthquake,

Avoiding Plagiarism

Most students would never intentionally steal objects. All too often, however, they steal another writer's ideas and words—they plagiarize. To be fair and to avoid even the appearance of plagiarism, always use your own words and generously credit your sources.

Be careful when you use research that others have done.

Only information that is widely available from a variety of sources—such as historic facts and geographic data—can be used without giving credit.

For example, if you were writing a research paper on earthquakes and you wanted to do some comparing of California earthquakes to others throughout history, you could find and use the dates and locations of other major earthquakes without referencing a specific source because similar information is available from any number of sources. If, however, you wanted to use a person's story about an earthquake, an analysis of the cause of an earthquake, or even a description of an earthquake, you would have to give credit to your source.

To serve as an example, this is an original paragraph from the book What Johnny Shouldn't Read—Textbook Censorship in America:

In the Dick and Jane readers some of us remember from our childhoods, a family consisted of a married couple, two or three well-behaved children, and a dog and a cat. Father wore suits and went out to work; mother wore aprons and baked cupcakes. Little girls sat demurely watching little boys climb trees. Home meant a single-family house in a middle-class suburban neighborhood. Color the lawn green. Color the people white. Family life in the textbook world was idyllic; parents did not quarrel, children did not disobey, and babies did not throw up on the dog.

Joan Delfattore, What Johnny Shouldn't Read—Textbook Censorship in America, p 26.

The following paragraphs illustrate plagiarized versions of the above excerpt:

  • In the Dick and Jane readers some of us remember from our childhoods, a family consisted of a married couple, two or three well-behaved children, and a dog and a cat. Father wore suits and went out to work; mother wore aprons and baked cupcakes. Little girls sat demurely watching little boys climb trees.

    Plagiarized.
    Problem: This has been directly copied without quotation marks or credit to the author.
  • According to Delfattore, the Dick and Jane readers of several years ago pictured an unrealistic family life. Stories always seemed to take place in middle-class suburban neighborhoods where life was idyllic; parents never quarreled and children always obeyed (26).

    Plagiarized.
    Problem: Although credit has been given to the author, this paraphrased version is not adequate because it contains bits and pieces of the original text (illustrated in bold above).

  • In the past, elementary school reading books told stories of an unrealistic life style. Families always lived in suburbia where homes and life were picture perfect.


    Plagiarized.

    Problem: Although this has been paraphrased, credit has not been given to the author.

Professional writers always credit their sources unless they are absolutely certain their information is available from a wide variety of references; you should too. General guidelines:

  • Use quotation marks and credit the source when you copy exact wording. Use quoted material selectively, quoting only those words, phrases, lines or passages that are particularly interesting, powerful, or vivid. The overuse of quoted material can interrupt the flow of your writing and make it seem as though you lack original ideas.
  • Whenever possible, use your own words to paraphrase instead of copying. The best way to do this is carefully read the selection you want to paraphrase. When you are finished, push away or cover up the original, thereby resisting the temptation to use it as a “guide.” Ask yourself “What did I just read?” and trust your answer. Write a summary of the material in your own words. You might be surprised at how much easier this is than trying to doctor or manipulate the original version!
  • Give credit for words and ideas that aren't your own, even if you paraphrase.

Myrick Land, author of Writing for Magazines, offers this excellent advice: "Remember that you are a writer, not a compiler of previously published material. Although you will consult other writers, frequently for facts and background information, the value of your writing will depend on your own contribution."

References:

Bower, Donald, ed. The Professional Writer’s Guide. Colorado: National Writer’s Club, 1990.
Kozak, Ellen. “The ABC’s of Avoiding Plagiarism.” Writer’s Digest 73.7 (1993): 40-1.
Land, Myrick. Writing for Magazines. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1993.  

Avoiding Plagiarism: Practice Exercise

Put the knowledge and strategies you have learned into practice by completing the following activity.

Rewrite each of the paragraphs below. Quote when appropriate, paraphrase when possible, and credit when necessary. Check your rewrites against the sample rewrites.

Original

  • Since all of my recommendations call upon you to prepare for speaking by writing out, in some form, what you wish to say, it is, first of all, of great importance to recognize that what is written to be read has a radically different character from what is written to be heard.

    The remarkable difference between listening and reading—the one requiring you to keep moving forward irreversibly with the flow of speech, the other allowing you to proceed at your own pace and to go forward or backward at will by simply turning the pages—demands that you accommodate what you write for listening, as contrasted with what you must do for readers.

    M.J. Adler, How To Speak, How To Listen, p 12.
  • Acceptable use of direct quotation:
    A speech should not be written with readers in mind. According to M.J. Adler, author of How to Speak, How to Listen, you should “accommodate what you write for listening” (12).
  • Acceptable paraphrase:
    When writing a speech, you must recognize that the words you are putting to paper are not meant to be read, but rather to be heard. This is an important consideration, as the recipients of a speech do not have the same benefits as readers do. They cannot pause for reflection, reread for understanding, or take in the information at their leisure. The audience of a speech must process the information that is presented all at once, so plan your words accordingly (Adler 12).

Original

  • Fairy tales are unique, not only as a form of literature, but as works of art which are fully comprehensible to the child as no other art form is. As with all great art, the fairy tale's deepest meaning will be different for each child and different for the same child at various moments in his life.

    Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment, p. 77.
  • Acceptable use of direct quotation:
    Children love fairy tales because they revolve so heavily around choices and allow them to experience the phenomena of cause and effect from a safe distance. As Bruno Bettelheim, author of The Uses of Enchantment points out, “Fairy tales are unique, not only as a form of literature, but as works of art which are fully comprehensible to the child as no other art form is” (77).
  • Acceptable paraphrase:
    Fairy tales capture the imaginations of children because children are especially receptive to the art of storytelling. From a developmental perspective, Little Red Riding Hood may be a story about stranger danger, or about caring for those who are unable to care for themselves, or about the importance of relying on one’s wits, depending upon the child’s age and stage. In this way, children rarely hear the same fairy tale twice (Bruno 77).

Original

  • A relatively new field, called interpersonal neurobiology, draws its vigor from one of the greatest discoveries of our era: that the brain is constantly rewiring itself based on daily life. In the end, what we pay the most attention to defines us. How you choose to spend the irreplaceable hours of your life literally transforms you.

    All relationships change the brain—but most important are the intimate bonds that foster or fail us, altering the delicate circuits that shape memories, emotions, and that ultimate souvenir, the self.

    Diane Ackerman, “The Brain on Love,” p. 1.

  • Acceptable use of direct quotation:
    Concentrate on the positive relationships in your life. According to Diane Ackerman, author of “The Brain on Love,” the important people in our lives affect our brain circuitry and sense of who we are: “All relationships change the brain—but most important are the intimate bonds that foster or fail us, altering the delicate circuits that shape memories, emotions, and that ultimate souvenir, the self” (1).

  • Acceptable paraphrase:
    The emerging field of study called interpersonal neurobiology suggests that the brain is constantly reconfiguring itself in response to the dominant relationships in our day-to-day lives (Ackerman 1).

Original

  • A compelling reason to preserve species is that each one plays an important role in an ecosystem (an intricate network of plant and animal communities) and the associated environment. When a species becomes endangered, it indicates that something is wrong with the ecosystems we all depend on.

    Like the canaries used in coal mines whose deaths warned miners of bad air, the increasing numbers of endangered species warn us that the health of our environment has declined. The measures we take to save endangered species will help ensure that the planet we leave for our children is as healthy as the planet our parents left for us.

    U. S. Department of the Interior, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species, p. 4.
  • Acceptable use of direct quotation:
    We don’t necessarily need expensive scientific equipment or analysis to measure the health of the physical environment. Mother Nature provides this information free of charge. One of the most tale-tell indicators of the health of our ecosystems is the number of endangered species. According to the U. S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “When a species becomes endangered, it indicates that something is wrong with the ecosystems we all depend on” (4).
  • Acceptable paraphrase:
    There is a correlation between the increasing number of endangered species and the declining condition of the ecosystems on which we depend. Future generations deserve the opportunity to enjoy a happy and productive life in a habitable physical environment. The measures we take now to protect endangered species will also protect the physical resources and livelihoods of generations to come (U. S. Department of the Interior, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 4).
or even a description of an earthquake, you would have to give credit to your source.

 

To serve as an example, this is an original paragraph from the book What Johnny Shouldn't Read—Textbook Censorship in America:

In the Dick and Jane readers some of us remember from our childhoods, a family consisted of a married couple, two or three well-behaved children, and a dog and a cat. Father wore suits and went out to work; mother wore aprons and baked cupcakes. Little girls sat demurely watching little boys climb trees. Home meant a single-family house in a middle-class suburban neighborhood. Color the lawn green. Color the people white. Family life in the textbook world was idyllic; parents did not quarrel, children did not disobey, and babies did not throw up on the dog.

Joan Delfattore, What Johnny Shouldn't Read—Textbook Censorship in America, p 26.

The following paragraphs illustrate plagiarized versions of the above excerpt:

  • In the Dick and Jane readers some of us remember from our childhoods, a family consisted of a married couple, two or three well-behaved children, and a dog and a cat. Father wore suits and went out to work; mother wore aprons and baked cupcakes. Little girls sat demurely watching little boys climb trees.

    Plagiarized.
    Problem: This has been directly copied without quotation marks or credit to the author.
  • According to Delfattore, the Dick and Jane readers of several years ago pictured an unrealistic family life. Stories always seemed to take place in middle-class suburban neighborhoods where life was idyllic; parents never quarreled and children always obeyed (26).

    Plagiarized.
    Problem: Although credit has been given to the author, this paraphrased version is not adequate because it contains bits and pieces of the original text (illustrated in bold above).

  • In the past, elementary school reading books told stories of an unrealistic life style. Families always lived in suburbia where homes and life were picture perfect.


    Plagiarized.

    Problem: Although this has been paraphrased, credit has not been given to the author.

Professional writers always credit their sources unless they are absolutely certain their information is available from a wide variety of references; you should too. General guidelines:

  • Use quotation marks and credit the source when you copy exact wording. Use quoted material selectively, quoting only those words, phrases, lines or passages that are particularly interesting, powerful, or vivid. The overuse of quoted material can interrupt the flow of your writing and make it seem as though you lack original ideas.
  • Whenever possible, use your own words to paraphrase instead of copying. The best way to do this is carefully read the selection you want to paraphrase. When you are finished, push away or cover up the original, thereby resisting the temptation to use it as a “guide.” Ask yourself “What did I just read?” and trust your answer. Write a summary of the material in your own words. You might be surprised at how much easier this is than trying to doctor or manipulate the original version!
  • Give credit for words and ideas that aren't your own, even if you paraphrase.

Myrick Land, author of Writing for Magazines, offers this excellent advice: "Remember that you are a writer, not a compiler of previously published material. Although you will consult other writers, frequently for facts and background information, the value of your writing will depend on your own contribution."

References:

Bower, Donald, ed. The Professional Writer’s Guide. Colorado: National Writer’s Club, 1990.
Kozak, Ellen. “The ABC’s of Avoiding Plagiarism.” Writer’s Digest 73.7 (1993): 40-1.
Land, Myrick. Writing for Magazines. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1993.  

Avoiding Plagiarism: Practice Exercise

Put the knowledge and strategies you have learned into practice by completing the following activity.

Rewrite each of the paragraphs below. Quote when appropriate, paraphrase when possible, and credit when necessary. Check your rewrites against the sample rewrites.

Original

  • Since all of my recommendations call upon you to prepare for speaking by writing out, in some form, what you wish to say, it is, first of all, of great importance to recognize that what is written to be read has a radically different character from what is written to be heard.

    The remarkable difference between listening and reading—the one requiring you to keep moving forward irreversibly with the flow of speech, the other allowing you to proceed at your own pace and to go forward or backward at will by simply turning the pages—demands that you accommodate what you write for listening, as contrasted with what you must do for readers.

    M.J. Adler, How To Speak, How To Listen, p 12.
  • Acceptable use of direct quotation:
    A speech should not be written with readers in mind. According to M.J. Adler, author of How to Speak, How to Listen, you should “accommodate what you write for listening” (12).
  • Acceptable paraphrase:
    When writing a speech, you must recognize that the words you are putting to paper are not meant to be read, but rather to be heard. This is an important consideration, as the recipients of a speech do not have the same benefits as readers do. They cannot pause for reflection, reread for understanding, or take in the information at their leisure. The audience of a speech must process the information that is presented all at once, so plan your words accordingly (Adler 12).

Original

  • Fairy tales are unique, not only as a form of literature, but as works of art which are fully comprehensible to the child as no other art form is. As with all great art, the fairy tale's deepest meaning will be different for each child and different for the same child at various moments in his life.

    Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment, p. 77.
  • Acceptable use of direct quotation:
    Children love fairy tales because they revolve so heavily around choices and allow them to experience the phenomena of cause and effect from a safe distance. As Bruno Bettelheim, author of The Uses of Enchantment points out, “Fairy tales are unique, not only as a form of literature, but as works of art which are fully comprehensible to the child as no other art form is” (77).
  • Acceptable paraphrase:
    Fairy tales capture the imaginations of children because children are especially receptive to the art of storytelling. From a developmental perspective, Little Red Riding Hood may be a story about stranger danger, or about caring for those who are unable to care for themselves, or about the importance of relying on one’s wits, depending upon the child’s age and stage. In this way, children rarely hear the same fairy tale twice (Bruno 77).

Original

  • A relatively new field, called interpersonal neurobiology, draws its vigor from one of the greatest discoveries of our era: that the brain is constantly rewiring itself based on daily life. In the end, what we pay the most attention to defines us. How you choose to spend the irreplaceable hours of your life literally transforms you.

    All relationships change the brain—but most important are the intimate bonds that foster or fail us, altering the delicate circuits that shape memories, emotions, and that ultimate souvenir, the self.

    Diane Ackerman, “The Brain on Love,” p. 1.

  • Acceptable use of direct quotation:
    Concentrate on the positive relationships in your life. According to Diane Ackerman, author of “The Brain on Love,” the important people in our lives affect our brain circuitry and sense of who we are: “All relationships change the brain—but most important are the intimate bonds that foster or fail us, altering the delicate circuits that shape memories, emotions, and that ultimate souvenir, the self” (1).

  • Acceptable paraphrase:
    The emerging field of study called interpersonal neurobiology suggests that the brain is constantly reconfiguring itself in response to the dominant relationships in our day-to-day lives (Ackerman 1).

Original

  • A compelling reason to preserve species is that each one plays an important role in an ecosystem (an intricate network of plant and animal communities) and the associated environment. When a species becomes endangered, it indicates that something is wrong with the ecosystems we all depend on.

    Like the canaries used in coal mines whose deaths warned miners of bad air, the increasing numbers of endangered species warn us that the health of our environment has declined. The measures we take to save endangered species will help ensure that the planet we leave for our children is as healthy as the planet our parents left for us.

    U. S. Department of the Interior, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species, p. 4.
  • Acceptable use of direct quotation:
    We don’t necessarily need expensive scientific equipment or analysis to measure the health of the physical environment. Mother Nature provides this information free of charge. One of the most tale-tell indicators of the health of our ecosystems is the number of endangered species. According to the U. S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “When a species becomes endangered, it indicates that something is wrong with the ecosystems we all depend on” (4).
  • Acceptable paraphrase:
    There is a correlation between the increasing number of endangered species and the declining condition of the ecosystems on which we depend. Future generations deserve the opportunity to enjoy a happy and productive life in a habitable physical environment. The measures we take now to protect endangered species will also protect the physical resources and livelihoods of generations to come (U. S. Department of the Interior, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 4).