Library Corner

Joe Mills, Librarian

Plagiarism and Citation

We’re going to look at a small section of the Taylor College Code of Conduct and attempt to zoom out until it starts to make sense. The Code of Conduct can be found on the website and on page 16 and 17 of the student catalog:

“Acts of dishonestly, including but not limited to the following:

  • Cheating, plagiarism, or other forms of academic dishonesty.”

Cheating is relatively straight-forward, and the academic dishonesty part is a catch-all for any goofy stuff you might try to get away with. However, for a lot of students, the plagiarism aspect can be a little difficult to unpack.

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2018), “plagiarism” is defined as:

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own: use (another's production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

So, what does that mean? Intangible things, like words or concepts, are considered intellectual property and are protected under copyright law. Plagiarism is the act of stealing another person’s words or concepts and passing them off as your own; intent doesn’t matter. Think of it like a less absurd version of the “Piracy. It’s a crime.” PSA that was put on a lot of DVDs in the early 2000s.

Now that everyone is thoroughly terrified of plagiarism, let’s talk about how to avoid it. First things first, the solution isn’t to stop using outside sources altogether and start relying exclusively on your own knowledge base. One, you don’t know enough; two, you never will. Fortunately, avoiding plagiarism is as easy as giving credit where it is due through the proper use of citations.

There are a couple of common ways to incorporate another person’s work into your own, and both require you to give credit to the original source. Generally, you will need to provide some type of in-text citation and include the incorporated work as a reference. How these in-text citations and references look will depend on the style that you’re writing in (APA, AMA, MLA, etc.). For demonstration purposes, the references for this article are done in an APA format.

The first way to incorporate another piece of work is with quotations. As many are familiar with, quoting is, as stated by the American Psychological Association (2015), when you “Reproduce word for word material directly quoted from another author’s work or from your own previously published work” (p. 170). Using quotes is a great idea when you want to ensure the exact wording and intent of the original author.

The second, and often times trickier, way is paraphrasing. Paraphrasing, simply put, is taking information from another work and putting it into your own words. This is valuable because it allows you to present another person’s information without disrupting your style of writing or over-relying on quotations; a habit that tempts many writers (Paraphrase: Write It in Your Own Words!, n.d.).

Bottom line, anytime you are using information from an outside source, you need to cite it. If you have any questions about how to cite materials or need any help with tackling style formats, please get in touch with me. You can email me at or find me wandering around the campus.