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Research Help: Academic Integrity: Avoiding Plagiarism

Why We Cite

"You know that instructors want you to cite your sources, but do you know why citations are so important?"

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Avoiding Plagiarism

Using someone else's ideas or expressions as your own, without acknowledging the source, is plagiarism.

Deliberate plagiarism is cheating. It is a serious academic offence punishable according to the regulations of the Academic Integrity Policy and can lead to a failing grade in the course and even expulsion. Knowing how to avoid plagiarism is an important part of academic work.

Two Basic Rules:

1. Identify the source of everything that is not (1) your own original thought or (2) common knowledge*.

2. When using someone else's exact words use quotation marks (or indent long passages) and identify the source.

When in doubt, you should, as indicated in the MLA Style Manual, provide a source for any appropriated materials that a reader might mistake for your own original ideas (Gibaldi 151)


1. Rewording someone else's ideas using your own words and sentence structure (paraphrasing or summarizing) is still plagiarism, unless you provide the source.

2. Introduce another person's idea by starting the sentence with the person's name (e.g. "According to ..."), and ending the section with a footnote number or parenthetical reference that shows where you found it. (Usually the reference will be just the last name of the author and page number. Complete information on the source will be listed at the end of the paper.)

3. To avoid accidental plagiarism, don't wait until you have written the final draft of your paper to add the citation information. Use quotation marks and add the full source information whenever taking notes and in all drafts.

4. Group work may be required in some classes. Confirm with your professor whether the work you hand in should be your own or collaborative; if collaborative, the names of all the participants must be on it.

5. Know how to cite sources (using parenthetical references, footnotes, reference lists, and bibliographies). Your professor may recommend a style manual to follow or ask a librarian to recommend the most commonly used guides for your subject area.

* What is common knowledge?

Common knowledge is often defined as facts known by a large number of people (for example: the sky is blue). However, what is common knowledge today in one part of the world may not be common knowledge somewhere else or at another moment in time. An information literate individual critically evaluates all information and sources of information -- including that considered conventional wisdom or an undisputed fact since, for example, new evidence disproving widely accepted theories can emerge at any time, and alternative or competing interpretations of dominant narratives may challenge or change common knowledge. In short, most of the information encountered in your research will require critical analysis and will require a bibliographic citation since it is based on the scholarship of others.

Work Cited:

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. 2nd ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1998. [note: newer editions of the MLA Guide are now available.]

Created 1999; Revised 2004.

Academic Integrity

Section 10.6 of the Mount Allison University Academic Calendar outlines the University's policies regarding academic dishonesty. 

More Guides on Plagiarism