How can I avoid plagiarizing?

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:

Why do we cite?

Citations are more than just a tool used to credit the work and ideas of others.  When you integrate citations within your writing, your readers will gain a sense of how your thoughts connect with the work of other scholars in the field.  This connection with other scholars adds credibility to your writing.  Readers interested in learning more about your ideas can locate the citations included in the paper and explore your original source for more information.

When do I need to cite?

You should 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. We have videos about how write effectively with sources and how to avoid plagiarism that can also help you when you’re writing.

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 such as MLA, APA , and 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.