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Preventing Plagiarism

What constitutes plagiarism?

Some actions are obviously plagiarism, such as buying a paper, hiring someone to write your paper or copying a large portion of a text without acknowledgement. Intentional plagiarism is a violation of professional ethics. However, most people plagiarize unintentionally, through ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism. However, unintentional plagiarism is still a violation of professional ethics, even if it is done inadvertently.

Below are three key areas on which people may plagiarize:


Original ideas of others:

You plagiarize if you use the original ideas of others AND

  • Claim someone else's work as your own; or
  • Fail to cite the source; or
  • Give incorrect information about the source
  • EXCEPTION: Obvious ideas & common knowledge do not have to be cited [more on common knowledge]

Direct quotes:

You plagiarize if you are directly quoting someone else's words AND

  • Fail to put the quotation in quotation marks, whether you cite the source or not


You plagiarize if you paraphrase (i.e. rephrase) someone else's ideas AND

  • Copy too many words or phrases from the source instead of using your own words, whether you cite the source or not [more about paraphrasing]

Forms of plagiarism

Here are ...

the most common forms of plagiarism

Plagiarism is a complicated subject. The tutorial below helps to provide a clearer picture by demonstrating some common cases of plagiarism. Click below to view the tutorial (Adobe Flash Player is needed for this tutorial).

Common knowledge

Common knowledge is something that most people already know. There is no clear boundary on what is regarded as common knowledge. Below are some examples:

Commonly reported facts - facts that are generally known by a vast population and can be found in numerous places:

  • "Obama won 2009 Nobel Peace Prize" is a fact and the source does not need to be cited. However, "The Nobel Peace Prize recognizes Obama's imaginative & energetic diplomacy" (1) is an intepretation (idea that interprets the fact) and should be cited

Easily observable information

  • e.g. "Research is a process" , "Smoking is hazardous to health"

When in doubt, cite!

(1) Borger, J. (2009, Oct. 9). More no-Bush than Nobel. Retrieved from