This example is modeled on Section 2.5 of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th Edition (2009), which offers other helpful examples of how to avoid plagiarism.
Suppose you are writing a paper about the subject “plagiarism.” You find the following observation in an article by Denis Dutton in the Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, page 507:
This form of fraud in education has been made easier by the availability from Internet sources of essays to fulfill high school and university assignments. One of the results of this has been the increasing tendency of teachers to assign highly specific topics for essays, topics so specific that they defy finding a source from which to plagiarize.
You decide to use this information in your paper. You write:
In an effort to fight plagiarism from Internet sources, teachers tend to assign highly specific paper topics, so that it is more difficult to find sources to plagiarize from.
You have just committed plagiarism!
Even though you are not copying the passage word for word, you are still presenting this unique observation as if you had thought of it yourself. Any of the following would avoid plagiarism by citing the source (using MLA style):
You would then fully identify the source in a “works cited” page at the end of your paper:
Dutton, Denis. “Plagiarism and Forgery.” Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. Ed. Ruth Chadwick. 4 vols. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998. Print.