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Citation Practices and Avoiding Plagiarism: Strategies for Avoiding Plagiarism

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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. Weingarten Learning Resource Center can help you with time management.


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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.

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Take careful notes and keep records of sources.

  • Take notes. When done well, research includes taking lots of notes.
  • Indicate whether a note is a direct quotation -- you used the author's language -- or a summary or paraphrase you wrote. This will help you avoid accidental plagiarism and allow you to quickly locate the original text.
  • For every paraphrase, summary, or quotation, make sure to note its source.
  • Keep a working bibliography. This will assure that you don't forget or lose a work that needs to be cited.

One easy way to do this is to use a citation tool that helps you as you go. For example, you can use PowerNotes or Zotero with ZotFile to keep a working bibliography and easily distinguish between quotations and your own notes.

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When in doubt -- cite.

  • If a paraphrase seems similar to the original source, decide whether you want to quote or rewrite -- and make sure to cite it.
  • If you include ideas that you hadn't thought of before, cite them -- or if you used information to confirm or support your ideas, 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.
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