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Avoiding Plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is a form of cheating. While there may be different forms of cheating, all cheating will get you into trouble at university. Penalties will vary from receiving a zero on an assignment to being dismissed from (kicked out of) the university. The details about academic misconduct, including university policies and professional codes of conduct, can be found on the Academic Integrity website. Plagiarism is the most common form of cheating in written assignments. Plagiarism occurs when you do not give credit to the original creator of an idea, a theory, a product, and so on. In written assignments, this might mean copying word for word from a source (e.g. a journal article or book) and not saying who originally came up with the ideas. Another mistake students often make is thinking that plagiarism is only about copying word for word. Plagiarism can also occur even if you put the ideas into your own words and do not give credit to the creator of those ideas. In other words, even if you summarize someone else's ideas, you must still provide (1) a citation AND (2) a reference. All essays normally have citations in the text (i.e., body) of the essay AND a list of all the sources used in the essay (called “References,” “Works Cited,” or “Bibliography,” depending on the style used).

Be aware of the citation style you are using as each style guide will have different requirements when it comes to punctuation requirements for in-text citations. For example, MLA and APA require in-text citations to use round brackets (or parentheses) to hold citation information, such as (Smith, 2021). However, IEEE requires in-text citations to use square brackets “[ ]” to hold citation information. Pay close attention to your citation style guide for any possible exceptions to the rule. For example, an exception to the above punctuation rule for APA is when you are abbreviating an organization or group within a parenthetical citation; the following format is to be used to format the citation properly: (American Psychological Association [APA], 2019).

What is a citation?

A citation is the way you give credit to the original author or creator of ideas. Citations are placed near the spot where you quote or summarize the information you are using in your essay. Depending on the citation method you are using, the citation might be located in the essay (i.e., an in-text citation using round brackets), at the bottom of each page (i.e., a footnote), or at the end of the essay (i.e., an endnote). All methods of citation will at least include the author’s last name and the date of publication, but other information may also be required.

What is a reference?

A reference is the complete bibliographic information for the source you are using in your essay. Depending on the style of documentation that your professor requires, the formatting and title of this section of your essay will vary. Even if you have citations in the body of your essay, you still need to include a list of references at the end of the essay.


You need BOTH a citation in the body of the essay AND a list of references at the end of the essay.

OK. So how do I avoid plagiarism?

The key to avoiding plagiarism is to be diligent about keeping track of your research by taking good notes, documenting all your research in your essay using citations and references, and putting information into your own words.

  1. Take good notes and keep track of exactly where the information is from: page numbers and full bibliographic information.
  2. If you are using sources from the Internet, you still need to provide a citation and reference with a URL.
  3. If you use information copied word for word from a source – any source – use quotation marks.
  4. If you summarize information or ideas, give the citation every time.
  5. It does not matter what type of source you are using (newspaper articles, magazines, podcasts, websites, blogs, as well as books and academic journal articles), you must provide the citation.
  6. Ask your professor what style of documentation (i.e., citations and references) is required for your assignment. For example, APA or IEEE.


Take the time to review the information in the Academic Integrity website.

How do I know what documentation style I need to use?

Every discipline (i.e., field of study) has different requirements for citation and referencing styles. For example, Communication, Criminology and Sociology usually require APA style, Engineering and Science might require IEEE or CSE, English uses MLA, and History uses The Chicago Manual of Style, BUT, sometimes it depends on the professor; many professors have very specific requirements, so make sure you know what style is required BEFORE you complete your assignment. Remember, just because you may be in the Engineering program, for example, you also take non-engineering courses that will require different styles of documentation.


Confirm with your professor or TA what documentation style is required BEFORE completing your assignments.


For additional information on upholding academic integrity in your work, take a moment to view the following websites: &