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Writing a Paper for Your Asian American Studies Class: Avoiding Plagiarism

When in doubt

When in doubt, cite it!

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

1. Be sure to give yourself enough time for research and writing.

You are most likely to plagiarize when you are struggling to write a paper at the last minute. If you haven't done any research and haven't had time to construct a true argument, you might be tempted to save time by relying heavily on one or two resources. In your rush you might closely paraphrase large sections of text or unintentionally use direct quotations without giving credit. To give yourself time for research and analysis, start thinking about the paper well before it is due.

2. Take careful notes and keep records of sources.

When done well, research includes taking lots of notes. Note taking style varies from researcher to researcher, but certain patterns should always be followed. Clearly indicate and provide location information for any duplication or paraphrase of original text in your note. This will help you avoid accidental plagiarism and allow you to quickly locate the original text. Furthermore, maintain a working bibliography while you research. This will assure that you don't forget or lose a work that needs to be cited.

3. Limit quotations and paraphrases to instances when they are really necessary.

The more you rely directly on the work of others, the more likely you are to accidentally plagiarize. Remember, research papers rely on but do not simply duplicate the work of others. An over-reliance on quotes or paraphrases when they are unnecessary could suggest that you do not understand the information well enough to synthesize it for yourself. Quotes or paraphrases are useful when another's work is being used as a primary resource, when you want to appeal to authority, or when you are summarizing.

4. When in doubt -- cite.

You will not always be clear about what needs to be cited. In times of doubt, err on the side of caution. If a paraphrase seems similar to the original source, cite it. If it includes complex ideas that you wouldn't have thought of on your own, cite it. If large sections of your paper were generated through consideration of someone else's argument, include a general citation that explains how it influenced your work.


(n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2020, from


Paraphrasing without providing a citation is plagiarism. Even paraphrases with citations can be instances of plagiarism if they are so similar to the original that the paraphraser claims credit for the original author's language.

A paraphrase that avoids plagiarism:

  • cites the source of the material being paraphrased.
  • differs enough from the original that it doesn't require quotation marks.


  • Original:

Wines drunk at Greek tables did not always come from Greece itself. The wine snobbery of the time extolled the merits of wines from the slopes of Mount Lebanon, from Palestine, Egypt and Magna Graecia-Greater Greece, i.e., southern Italy. The ten litres a day drunk by the famous wrestler Milo of Croton was a wine famous in Calabria, where Milo lived: this wine, Ciro, is still made.

  • Plagiarism 

Wines drunk by Greeks were not always made in Greece itself. The wine snobs of that period celebrated wines from Mount Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt. The famous wrestler Milo of Croton, who consumed ten liters of wine a day, drank wine made in Calabria outside of Greece; this wine, Ciro, is still made.

  • Not Plagiarism

Although Greeks were picky about their wine, they enjoyed wine from outside Greece. Upstanding Greeks enjoyed wine from many of Greece's local trading partners—including Palestine, Egypt and southern Italy. One story tells of the famous wrestler Milo of Croton, who consumed ten liters of foreign wine daily (Toussaint-Samat 263).


(n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2020, from

Common Knowledge

Not every fact in your paper needs to be documented. Facts that are widely known—common knowledge—can stand by themselves.

Examples of statements expressing common knowledge:

  • George Washington was the first president.
  • Plato spent most of his life in Athens.
  • Maine has a lower yearly average temperature than Florida.


Any statement that originates from another source and contains information that is not common knowledge must be cited.

Examples of statements that don't express common knowledge:

  • Civilizations that were aware of geese usually considered them intermediaries between heaven and earth (Toussaint-Samat 352). 
  • The Chinese fishing industry produces 800,000 tons of fish annually (Toussaint-Samat 328). 
  • The first international coffee syndicate was based in Germany (Toussaint-Samat 590). 

These statements aren't surrounded by quotation marks because they aren't the original authors' words but must be cited because they express information that involves facts that are not commonly known.

Examples of Common Knowledge. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2020, from