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Research Guides

Information Literacy & Library Research: How to Avoid Plagiarism

Information literacy is the ability to know when information is needed and to be able to identify, locate and evaluate, and then legally and responsibly use and share that information.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Avoiding Plagiarism


As a student you need to turn in your own original work for academic credit. After all, it is you who is earning the degree. Using work that was not created by you (e.g. borrowing a paper from a roommate, using an AI program or software to write your paper), or using work from others (whether human or machine generated) without giving credit is considered academic misconduct and will trigger the University's disciplinary procedures (see section C of POLICY #6.33: Academic Integrity). Plagiarism is using work that is not your own without acknowledging this.

Plagiarism can refer to both citation mistakes and to deliberate cheating and lying about the authorship of a source. It is important to remember that research, whether for term papers, speeches, presentations, or projects, usually depends on information taken from the work of others. When you mention the writings and ideas of others in your papers or presentations it is necessary to give credit to the original author. This is done by properly citing the creators within your paper. It is important to cite your research sources even when you paraphrase information and are not quoting it directly. Whenever you fail to give proper credit for the information or ideas contained in your paper it is plagiarism.

Plagiarism is academic dishonesty, and the penalties can be severe. Most university professors have methods for discovering plagiarized material, like Unicheck, and will deal severely with students who engage in this type of intellectual dishonesty. You may receive zero points for an assignment or fail the course entirely. Faculty at SUU have to report each plagiarism case to the Dean of Students Office where it is recorded centrally. Repeated offenses or very serious first offenses may lead to expulsion from the University. Students that have been found plagiarizing material in their papers often claim that it was done without their knowledge or "by accident." Ignorance is not a reasonable defense, so it pays to learn exactly what constitutes plagiarism and how to appropriately acknowledge and document the information you use.

​How to Avoid Plagiarism

Students often have misconceptions about plagiarism. Some students assume that plagiarism involves only written text, but electronic sources, images, recorded or spoken material (lectures, interviews), as well as the ideas of others, all need to be credited. Cyber-plagiarism, cutting and pasting information from the Web, is so easy to do that many students assume, incorrectly, that the information can be used without citing the author and source.

The standards become higher as you progress in your education. As a college student, you are expected to have your own ideas, to read information and explain it in your own words, and to use information you collect for research in an ethical manner.

This means that you must:

  • Do your own research and writing!  Although group work is encouraged in some college classes, most college writing assignments require you to do your own work. Do not use AI to write your papers for you. AI can be a powerful tool to help you brainstorm ideas and generate ideas, it is far from perfect and will often give you a lot of words that sound academic without actually saying anything, which ultimately gives you a worse grade.
  • Expect research to take time!  Plagiarism can be a tempting shortcut if you wait until the last minute to complete assignments.
  • Always credit the author!  If the idea or information was not created by you, credit another's ideas and words by citing the original work.
  • Keep careful records of all information you find!  Sloppy note taking increases the chance that you will unintentionally plagiarize.
  • Use correct citation styles!  Follow the guidelines for using the style you use carefully and accurately. The form and punctuation you use are important.

Using good writing techniques will help you to avoid plagiarism. These include quoting, paraphrasing, and citing sources:

  • Quotations are statements taken (cut and pasted) from the original document, with quotations around the copied words and a citation for the source in which you found the quote:

    According to Brevnik (2010, p. 45) the "royal road to the unconscious" was Sigmund Freud's expression of the dreamer's unfulfilled wishes.

  • Paraphrases restate information from a source using your own words, with a citation to the source:

    In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46-47).

  • Citing sources is the acknowledgement that you have taken information (such as graphics, text, or even ideas) from another source. Although there are a few exceptions such as common knowledge, it's always good practice to accurately refer to the sources where you have taken information for your writing.

To learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it, see these links: