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Plagiarism: Avoiding Plagiarism

This guide will help you learn about plagiarism and how you can avoid it in your writing.

Ethical Ways to Cite Other People's Work


  • If you prefer to track your sources electronically, use EndNote to easily add and track all sources. You can download it for free through UK.
  • Prefer to track sources the old school way? Use index cards to keep notes and track sources of information used in your paper.
  • If you plan to use an exact quote, make sure you copy the quotation exactly as it appears in the original source. Enclose the quote in quotation marks and note the citation information.

Test Your Knowledge

Direct Quotes

Direct quotes should be used sparingly in your paper. However, when you need to directly quote an author, here are some tips:

  • Be sure to include quotation marks at the beginning and end of the quote.
  • Do not just throw in a direct quote. Make sure you are introducing it through some sort of transition. 
  • Cite the author both in the text and on your References Cited page according to the style (MLA, APA, etc.) you are using. 
  • For longer quotes, you may need to use block quotes. Check with your style manual to see what the protocol is for this.

As Ballew makes note of, "Although Sherlock Holmes was noted for his brilliant deductive power, which is crucial to mathematics, a less well known facet of his prodigious skills was how he positioned himself to make deductions in the first place" (Ballew, 1994, p. 596). 


Works Cited:

Ballew, H. (1994). Sherlock Holmes, Master Problem Solver. The Mathematics Teacher, 87(8), 596-601. Retrieved from


To paraphrase, follow the steps below:

  1. Read the original text until you grasp its meaning; then set it aside.
  2. Using your memory, write down the main points or concepts. Do not copy the text verbatim.
  3. Change the structure of the text by varying the opening, changing the order of sentences, lengthening or shortening sentences, etc.
  4. Replace keywords within the sentences with synonyms or phrases with similar meanings.
  5. Check your notes against the original to ensure you have not accidentally plagiarized.

Original Text

"Writing is a complex and demanding task that presents motivational challenges even for proficient writers. Beginning with an often ill-defined task, writers must set goals, generate ideas, organize those ideas, and find appropriate language to express their meaning, all the while considering the needs of readers who are not present to provide feedback. In addition, struggling writers may also contend with problems of language, grammar, and transcription and may experience considerable anxiety about their writing ability" (31). 

Unacceptable Borrowing of Phrases
MacArthur et al. contend that writing is a complex task that presents challenges even for good writers because they often must contend with ill-defined tasks while trying to account for readers who are not present to provide feedback on their work. They may also have problems with their grammar and writing ability (31).

Acceptable Paraphrase
MacArthur et al. note that while writing is tough for poor writers, it is also challenging for good writers. However, the difference between the two is that poor writers typically face technical issues with writing, while good writers encounter challenges with their vision, communication, and fulfilling the needs of the reader (31).


Works Cited:

MacArthur, C. A., Philippakos, Z. A., & Graham, S. (2016). A Multicomponent Measure of Writing Motivation With BasicCollege Writers. Learning Disability Quarterly, 39(1), 31-43. doi:10.1177/0731948715583115


Common Knowledge

Facts that are common knowledge do not need to be cited in your paper. Common knowledge is thought of as facts that most (if not all) people know. 

Facts that would need to be cited:

  • Any kind of data
  • Statistics
  • Reference to studies
  • Dates and numbers that the average person would not know 

How can you determine if something is common knowledge? Ask the following questions:

  • Who is going to read this?
  • Is the person reading this paper familiar with this area?
  • Will they ask me where the information came from if I don't cite it?

Remember: When in doubt, cite it (or ask your professor)!

Common knowledge facts:

  • Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States
  • 98.6 is considered the average temperature of healthy adults
  • The chemical structure for water is H2O.

Facts that would need to be cited:

  • The Smithsonian Museum has 4,540,437 Twitter followers. (Smithsonian Museum, n.d.). 
  • You can get your mail forwarded for 15 days on up to a year with the U.S. Postal Service (United States Postal Service, n.d.).
  • The Grand Canyon is the length of 277 river miles (Grand Canyon National Park, n.d.).


Works Cited:

National Park Service. (n.d.). Grand Canyon National Park. Retrieved from

Smithsonian Museum. (n.d.). Social Media Metrics. Retrieved from 

United States Postal Service. (n.d.). Forward Mail. Retrieved from


This video, What is Summary, is used with permission under a Creative Commons license ( and was created by the Kimbel Library.