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Lincoln's Cabinet: Avoiding Plagiarism

Political Science and Lincoln Junkies, rejoice! A treasure trove of information awaits you.

Ways to Avoid 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 at right to understand the difference between building on someone's ideas and plagiarizing them.
  3. Create your notes and bibliography as you go along. Remember to add or delete as needed.
  4. If someone helps you write your paper, make sure it is help (feedback/advice, minor edits) and not a ghost writer .
  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.
  6. Copying sentences and paragraphs from ebooks, online articles, and webpages is an easy way to build a paper, but the rule of thumb is no more than 20-30% of your paper should be direct or indirect quotes.

Steps to a great paper

Get started early, instead of procrastinating.
If you procratinate the temptaion to take shortcuts increases. 

  1. Know what your assignment means
  2. Ask your professor for clarification if you are not sure what is being required
  3. Call, email or come to the library for help - we can save you a ton of time!

Get writing help. The library offers research AND writing help.


Depending on what kind of academic class you take will determine which styleguide you will be expected to use. your syllbus will state which one is the preferred guide for the class. Why is that important?

Each style guide handles direct and indirect/paraphrasing differently.

Broadly speaking, here are some similarities AND differences:

1. ALL the styles require you to cite direct quotes.
2. APA and MLA expect an indirect quote (paraphrase) to list the author in paranthesis at the end of the sentence OR paragraph you have rewritten.
3. Chicago expects you to use a numbered Notes list for all direct or indirect/paraphrased parts of your paper.
4. Chicago ALSO expects a Bibliography as well as the Notes list. The NOTES list in a numbered list of each quote or paraphrase as it occurs within your paper. The BIBLIOGRAPHY is an alpabetical list of all sources used, either directly or indirectly in your paper.  




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Avoiding Plagiarism

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.

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.

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: 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.

Concrete examples for you to consider

Concrete Examples for You to Consider

Note: these examples were taken from For more examples, please see their website and others listed in the related area below.

The original text from Elaine Tyler May's "Myths and Realities of the American Family" reads as follows:

"Because women's wages often continue to reflect the fiction that men earn the family wage, single mothers rarely earn enough to support themselves and their children adequately. And because work is still organized around the assumption that mothers stay home with children, even though few mothers can afford to do so, child-care facilities in the United States remain woefully inadequate."

Here are some possible uses of this text. As you read through each version, try to decide if it is a legitimate use of May's text or a plagiarism.

Version A: Since women's wages often continue to reflect the mistaken notion that men are the main wage earners in the family, single mothers rarely make enough to support themselves and their children very well. Also, because work is still based on the assumption that mothers stay home with children, facilities for child care remain woefully inadequate in the United States.

Plagiarism: In Version A there is too much direct borrowing of sentence structure and wording. The writer changes some words, drops one phrase, and adds some new language, but the overall text closely resembles May's. Even with a citation, the writer is still plagiarizing because the lack of quotation marks indicates that Version A is a paraphrase, and should thus be in the writer's own language.

Version B: As Elaine Tyler May points out, "women's wages often continue to reflect the fiction that men earn the family wage" (588). Thus many single mothers cannot support themselves and their children adequately. Furthermore, since work is based on the assumption that mothers stay home with children, facilities for day care in this country are still "woefully inadequate." (May 589).

Plagiarism: The writer now cites May, so we're closer to telling the truth about the relationship of our text to the source, but this text continues to borrow too much language.

Version C: By and large, our economy still operates on the mistaken notion that men are the main breadwinners in the family. Thus, women continue to earn lower wages than men. This means, in effect, that many single mothers cannot earn a decent living. Furthermore, adequate day care is not available in the United States because of the mistaken assumption that mothers remain at home with their children.

Plagiarism: Version C shows good paraphrasing of wording and sentence structure, but May's original ideas are not acknowledged. Some of May's points are common knowledge (women earn less than men, many single mothers live in poverty), but May uses this common knowledge to make a specific and original point and her original conception of this idea is not acknowledged.

Version D: Women today still earn less than men — so much less that many single mothers and their children live near or below the poverty line. Elaine Tyler May argues that this situation stems in part from "the fiction that men earn the family wage" (588). May further suggests that the American workplace still operates on the assumption that mothers with children stay home to care for them (589). This assumption, in my opinion, does not have the force it once did. More and more businesses offer in-house day-care facilities.

No Plagiarism: The writer makes use of the common knowledge in May's work, but acknowledges May's original conclusion and does not try to pass it off as his or her own. The quotation is properly cited, as is a later paraphrase of another of May's ideas.