Avoiding Plagiarism

From Michener’s Academic Integrity Policy and Procedure:

Plagiarism is the portrayal, claiming or use of another person’s work or ideas (sentence, thought, paragraph, intellectual property, data, drawings or images) without specific reference. In the academic world this is considered to be theft. It is dishonest and irresponsible and will result in serious consequences.


Plagiarism is taking, using, and submitting the thoughts, writings, etc., of another person as your own. If a concept or theory is “common knowledge” in the field, e.g., one of the symptoms of measles is a rash, you do not need to provide a reference; if it is not common knowledge or if you are not sure, provide a reference. Examples of concepts that require a reference include discoveries, theories, controversies and opinions. Don’t forget to acknowledge the source of illustrations, charts, and tables of data. For more information, consult the University of Toronto’s How Not to Plagiarize.

There are several reasons for including a reference:

  • it is ethical to credit others for their contributions to your writing;
  • it may be a legal obligation in the case of copyright;
  • to protect you in the case of questionable allegations;
  • to reflect your prior reading effort;
  • to show the sequence of events involved in the resolution of a scientific problem, as part of your argument.

Paraphrases: It is often necessary to reduce a concept or theory into a few sentences. While the words may be your own, the concepts or theories are not; and you must give credit to your sources. The use of paraphrasing, rather than direct quotes, is often preferred because it helps with creating flow in building logical arguments.

Quotations: Direct quotations are to be used very sparingly. The chief drawback is that the text becomes choppy and difficult to read. Using the author’s own words in a direct quote is usually justified for only the following reasons:

  • credibility, an argument gains credibility by quoting a known authority;
  • power, an argument gains power by the skillful weaving-in of knowledge into the text;
  • eloquence, an argument gains eloquence by using a direct quote that illuminates the concept.