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Plagiarism & the Research Paper: The Basics

What is Plagiarism?

Webster’s II New College Dictionary (1995) defines “plagiarize” this way: “to steal and use (the ideas or writing of another) as one’s own.”

Using another person’s words or ideas without acknowledging your debt to them is a form of cheating.

It can result in serious penalties including failure in a course or suspension from the university.

Why Do You Cite?

To give others a chance to learn from the resources you found useful

To show you stand by your work, since you are willing to let others verify it

To give credit where credit is due

To make your own original ideas stand out

Examples of Plagiarism

Examples of plagiarism include:

Handing in as your own work a paper you did not write.

Using the exact wording of another writer without enclosing the material in quotation marks and properly citing the source.

Using another writer’s ideas or observations without properly citing the source, even if you if did not copy the source word-for-word.

Most forms of plagiarism by students are unintentional.

By understanding when you should cite your sources, you can avoid accidental plagiarism in your papers.

When Do You Cite?

In general, you do NOT need to provide citations for:

  • ideas or facts which are common knowledge
  • proverbs or well-known quotes
  • your own ideas or your personal opinions
  • results of a study or experiment you conducted

You DO need to cite the source for:

  • ideas or observations which are unique or unusual and are not your own
  • results of studies or experiments you did not conduct yourself
  • word-for-word quotations (must be enclosed in quotation marks)
  • paraphrased or summarized passages—even if they are not exact quotations

How Do You Cite?

How you write out your citations will be determined by the style your instructor wants you to use.

Manuals for common styles are available in Pfau Library or the CSUSB bookstore:

APA style (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association)

MLA style (MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers)

Turabian (Manual for Writers of Term Papers, by Kate Turabian)

A Safe Rule

A good research paper will not need a citation for every sentence.

However, you must avoid presenting interesting ideas or apt phrases as if you had created them, when in fact you are borrowing them from someone else.

A safe rule: When in doubt, cite. Always ask your instructor if you have questions about when to cite!

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