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ENG 110: How to Write Well (Harman, FA2021): Getting an A, Not an F: Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism, Defined

What is Plagiarism?

The Random House dictionary defines plagiarism as "the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work."

The University will hold a student responsible for their actions. Academic dishonesty will be sanctioned. For more information on penalties, see the catalog.

Imitation or borrowing by themselves are not plagiarism. However, you must acknowledge that you read, borrowed or quoted from an author or source.

Final Thought

Avoid plagiarism or risk getting an "F" or academic sanctions, such as probation or expulsion. When you put your name on your paper or project, you are stating that this work is your original one of a kind submission. "If through carelessness or design you've blurred the lines between what's yours and what you've taken from others, you are stealing intellectual property. Don't do it. Plagiarism is risky and counterproductive. It harms your intellectual and moral development. It leaves a permanent paper trail that can have devastating consequences, even years down the line. And, most of all, it's wrong." (source: The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing).

Kinds of Plagiarism

There are 5 kinds of common plagiarism:

  1. Quoting someone without giving credit for the idea or words.
  2. "Borrowing" a paper or presentation. Someone else wrote the whole thing, and you submit it as your own. Borrowing a friend's paper, buying one from the internet, or otherwise turning in works you did not complete on your own.
  3. Using examples and supporting ideas from a source without giving credit.
  4. Rewording a sentence or paragraph without giving credit. If someone else said "the Titanic was considered unsinkable when she was built" and you write "When the Titanic was built she was thought to be unsinkable" it is still plagiarism -- you got the sentence and information from a source.
  5. Quoting from a source you think is "copyright-free", including the Internet, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and newspapers. These sources are still someones intellectual property. Someone still created it; you still need to give credit.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Five Ways to Avoid Plagiarism

  1. Document as you go. Don't think you will remember everything you copied and pasted or typed in. Put your citation in immediately; you can always take it out after revisions if you no longer need it.
  2. Use the examples in the tab above to understand the difference between building on someone's ideas and plagiarizing them.
  3. Write your works cited page as you go along. Remember to add or delete as needed.
  4. Don't let someone else "help" you write your paper, unless it is a writing isntructor from the library, your professor or a tutor from the Learning Resource Center; they can help you clarify your ideas without writing it for you.
  5. Don't borrow or buy a paper. Your friends ideas are just that -- their ideas. A paper from the Internet may help you generate ideas, but don't try to submit it as your own.

Things you don't have to cite

Things you can use without quotes.


You can state famous people's birth and death dates and other commonly known information. Why? this is common information; for example, the 4th of July celebrates Independence day in America, George Washington was the first President of the U.S., John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln, and that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. None of this would need quotes, unless you added specific information, such as "John Wilkes Booth was born on May 10, 1838 in a log house. The family home was on property near Bel Air, Maryland, twenty-five miles south of the Mason-Dixon line. Elder brother Edwin supervised his younger brother's upbringing. " (source: http://www.nps.gov/foth/booth.htm) Why would you need to quote this but not the other informaiton about Booth? Because it is not information that is common, not many people would know it without looking it up.

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