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Research Without Pain: 3c. Avoid Plagiarism

Research can be fun if you follow these simple steps.

Avoid Plagiarism

What is Plagiarism? The Oxford English Dictionary defines Plagiarism as: The action or practice of plagiarizing; the wrongful appropriation or purloining, and publication as one's own, of the ideas, or the expression of the ideas (literary, artistic, musical, mechanical, etc.) of another.

Plagiarism is the use of the words or ideas of others as though they were the writer's own. Wrongful appropriation or purloining is theft. Plagiarism is stealing. Plagiarism is academic dishonesty, and as such is considered a serious affront to academic integrity.


    • Plagiarism is including in a paper words or ideas from a book or other source without citing or acknowledging that source.
    • Plagiarism is including material found on, or bought through, the Internet or another medium without citing the source of that material.
    • Plagiarism is including another student's work in your own paper, with or without that student's knowledge.
    • Plagiarism is including part of all of a paper you have written for another course, without the express permission of your teacher to do so, or without citation of the previous work.
    • Plagiarism is including in your paper words or ideas freely offered by another person, be it a dormmate, friend, or a member of your own family, but not acknowledged as another's work.
    • Plagiarism is paraphrasing materials from a source text without appropriate documentation.

Is it wrong to use the words and ideas of others?

Unless the assignment forbids it, incorporating the words and ideas of others, properly documented, may be a useful strategy. The difference between plagiarism and scholarship is acknowledgement or citation. To use the thoughts of an authority to buttress your own argument is helpful, all the more so when the authority of your source is powerful. However, the quality of your paper will generally be judged by your own ideas and your own phrasing, to which the incorporated material is an addition.

Is it OK to get help on a paper?

Help from another person on a paper does not necessarily become plagiarism. If the help consists of criticisms of the words and ideas of your paper, rather than substitutions for those words and ideas, it is acceptable. At the point that you insert someone else's ideas or words into your paper without acknowledging the source of those ideas, plagiarism begins. If you use someone else's ideas or words, say so in your paper.

Is it OK for a friend, parent, or relative to write all or part of a paper for me?

Regardless of the motivation of the "helper," if you hand in work that has been done in part or whole by another without specifically indicating what help was given, you have committed plagiarism. Isn't the Internet in the public domain and can't I use information that I find there?

Material on the Internet is the intellectual property of its author, even if you do not know who the author is. As such, even if it does not include a copyright statement or display a copyright symbol, it is copyrighted and may not be used without permission. In addition, you are plagiarizing if you use any material at all from the Internet - words, ideas, pictures, graphs, code - without acknowledging its source.


How to Protect yourself from possible Plagiarism

Plagiarism can be deliberate or inadvertent. When PA students deliberately plagiarize, they usually report that they had procrastinated so long that they felt they had no options. * Are you a procrastinator? If so, you have a lot of company. Research is a complex process and you can't do your best work if you don't allow enough time. Use the Planning Assignments calculator to make sure that you stay on track.

When PA students plagiarize inadvertently, the fault typically lies with sloppy organization and note-taking. Many students lose track of the source of the notes that they have taken, and eventually come to believe that they are original ideas. Whether or not you mean to plagiarize is ultimately irrelevant. If you use the intellectual property of another without proper attribution, it is a violation of the Phillips Academy honor code. Can you protect yourself from inadvertent plagiarism? This tutorial will help.

What do I do when I have a paper due and I just don't have any ideas?

Look at Focus Your Topic and Developing a Research Question as soon as you receive an assignment requiring you to use information sources. Make sure that you work through the process to define your task clearly and to specify your information need precisely. If you carefully complete these steps you will have a driving question that will organize your research and give it meaning. If you really are stuck, ask your instructor any OWHL Instructional Librarian for help.

How do I cite or acknowledge that I have used ideas or words of another writer?

Your teacher may specify how you should acknowledge your sources, and may have a style sheet or guide for this purpose. However, in any case you should mention in the paper itself the source of words and ideas that are not originally yours. A phrase like, "As Sarah Magog writes in Civilization's End,..." will show that you have borrowed material. To acknowledge the help of a friend, you might write "Bill Jones says that the population of Sweden is dwindling dangerously" or, as note at the end of a paper, "Shirley Smith helped me edit my sentences in this paper." If you are not sure whether or not to acknowledge something, do it.

TIP: Check Citing Sources to make sure that you are citing your sources in the prescribed format.

TIP: Use RefWorks to keep all of your sources organized

More Plagiarism resources on the Internet

  • The Writing Center at Hamilton College offers guidance on Using Sources, including a discussion of how and when to use direct quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. The resource also discusses borrowed ideas, the treatment of common knowledge, and correct practice for integrating source material.