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ENG 110 and 110L: Plagiarism

Why Cite?

Plagiarism is using the words or ideas of someone else as though they were your own.  Plagiarism includes using any original audiovisual files - images, videos, music, etc. without giving credit to the creator.

Carefully citing your sources:

No Plagiarism
  • gives credit to authors whose works you have used

  • creates a trail so others can find the materials you used

  • provides evidence of your research

  • is the ethical & standard practice for students and scholars


Credit: UC Santa Cruz University Library

Avoiding Plagiarism

Consider using tools to help organize your research and keep your information in one place. Try keeping track of what you're quoting or paraphrasing in a “research journal.” Some great suggestions for free, online options at:


Use these guidelines: 

  • Cite your sources (direct quotes and paraphrasing) as you write your rough draft. Refer back to your research journal for accuracy.
  • Use style guides to cite in the correct format. Ask a librarian about how can save you time!
  • When in doubt, cite it! Cite all outside sources except for common knowledge.
  • If you still have questions about when to cite, check with your instructor.

Credit: UC San Diego Library

4 Steps to Successful Paraphrasing

  1. Read the entire text, underlining key points and main ideas.

  2. In your own words, write a sentence about the main idea of the text (i.e. summarize). Also, write key points in the text.

  3. Highlight any words, phrases, or key passages that you would want to quote directly.

  4. Combine the above into a new paraphrased paragraph, using your own words.

Types of Plagiarism

There are many ways you can misappropriate or steal ideas, both intentional and unintentional. It is your responsibility to learn how to use and cite your sources. 

  • Direct Plagiarism is the word-for-word transcription of a section of someone else's work without citing it. 
  • Self-Plagiarism occurs when you submit your own previous work or mix parts of previous work without permission from all instructors involved. For example, it would be unacceptable to incorporate part of a term paper you wrote in high school into a paper assigned in a college course. Self-plagiarism also applies to submission of the same piece of work for assignments in different classes without previous permission from both instructors.
  • Mosaic Plagiarism or "Patch Writing" occurs when you borrow phrases from a source without using quotation marks or find synonyms for the author's language while keeping the same general structure and meaning as the original. 

Example of Mosaic Plagiarism

Example of Appropriate Paraphrase

  • Accidental Plagiarism occurs when you forget to cite a source, misquote a source, or unintentionally paraphrase a source by using similar words or sentence structure without attribution. 

If you plagiarize, even accidentally, you may fail your assignment, class or you could even be expelled. If you don't know if you are plagiarizing, ask your professor, go to the Writing Center or ask a librarian.

Credit: Auburn University Libraries 


Common Knowledge

According to MIT's Academic Integrity Handbook (linked below), common knowledge "refers to information that the average, educated reader would accept as reliable without having to look it up." Common knowledge includes:

  • Information that most people know (Barack Obama was the first African-American to be elected president)
  • Information shared by a cultural or national group (For people in the U.S., that the nation was founded in 1776)
  • Knowledge shared by members of a certain field (in music, that there are four primary clefs: treble, bass, alto, and tenor)

However, what may be common knowledge in one culture, nation, academic discipline or peer group may not be common knowledge in another. (1)

If you aren't sure if something is common knowledge, cite it! 

(1) "Common Knowledge." Academic Integrity at MIT.

Interactive Tutorials

  • Accidental Plagiarism - Don't Let it Happen to You  
    Univ. of Arizona - Interactive, self-paced tutorial designed to teach you how to avoid accidental plagiarism by understanding how it can occur and how to avoid it through correct use of paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting of resources. A brief, instantly assessed quiz is included.

  • What is Plagiarism?
    From Rutgers University (NJ), this is an informative yet humorous introduction to plagiarism including tips to improve your writing in an effort to avoid plagiarism. The tutorial consists of two flash movies and a quiz to test your understanding of the content.