I am afraid I am plagiarizing, but I am not sure.
Plagiarism is an important concern at the University of Louisville, so it’s understandable if you are worried about plagiarizing as you work with sources for a paper. But if you educate yourself about plagiarism, understand why you should cite sources, and take time to make sure that you properly cite your sources, you will be fine. Consider some of our advice:
When do I need to cite?
You cite every time you use another person’s words, ideas, or images. When you use a writer’s words, you need to write those words exactly how they appeared in that writer’s document, and you need to put quotation marks around those words. If you restate a writer’s ideas in your own words, you still need to give that writer credit for his or her ideas. If you’re not sure if you need to cite a particular piece of information, you can ask a Writing Center consultant or your instructor for advice. If you don’t have time to ask someone, it is safer to cite than to not cite at all.
What are some common reasons writers plagiarize?
Sometimes writers knowingly pass off others’ words and ideas as their own, usually because they are not concerned with giving someone else deserved credit or because they feel the pressure to meet a pending deadline and/or the demands of a tough assignment.
More commonly, plagiarism is isn’t an entirely deliberate act. Writers may be confused about how to cite properly, may become disorganized and lose track of what they’re doing, or may wait to the last minute to write a paper causing them to make mistakes.
How can plagiarism be avoided?
- Be sure you understand when you need to cite.
- Practice effective quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing.
- Try to avoid copying and pasting words from your sources. Instead, print your sources and/or type out any quotes that you use.
- Cite as you write. Don’t wait until you’re finished with your draft to read back through your paper and find all the words, phrases, and ideas that require citations.
- Using citation management software, such as EndNote, can help you in this process.
What can the Writing Center do to help?
Our consultants can explain to you how to correctly cite sources by helping you understand specific citation systems (i.e. MLA, APA, Chicago) and by helping you learn how to effectively quote, paraphrase, and summarize. In the Writing Center, we have official handbooks for all major citation systems that are available for your use, and on our website, we have handouts and videos about citation and plagiarism.