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Understanding Plagiarism: Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

Note Taking

Many instances of plagiarism are actually unintentional. An example of this may occur when drawing passages from your notes to support the thesis of a research paper you are writing. If you failed to document your sources while note taking, weeks later you might believe a passage was your original thought, when in actuality, it was a quote from a primary source. When you immerse yourself in a topic, it's easy to forget what ideas were your own and which ones are simply remembered from your research.

A best practice in note taking for research is to make a notation beside each paragraph or phrase, marking it as an original thought, paraphrasing of another author's work work, or a direct quote. If it is anything other than an original thought, also make a note of your source, including page numbers, so that you may easily attribute this information to its source when you write your final paper. If it is a direct quotation, be sure to place quotation marks around the entirety of the quote.

Examples of How to Use the Work of Others in Your Work

Here is an original passage from page 248 of Ashley Montagu’s book The American Way of Life

To be human is to weep.  The human species is the only one in the whole world of animate nature that sheds tears.  The trained inability of any human being to weep is a lessening of his capacity to be human – a defect that usually goes deeper than the mere inability to cry.  And this, among other things, is what American parents – with the best intentions in the world – have achieved for the American male.  It is very sad. If we feel like it, let us all have a good cry – and clear our minds of those cobwebs of confusion, which have for so long prevented us from understanding the ineluctable necessity of crying. 

Now, look at the various ways you can use the opinion expressed in the passage in your own work or to support your own opinions and assertions.

Paraphrase/Summary

Montagu (2000) claims that American men have a diminished capacity to be human because they have been trained by their culture not to cry.

Direct Quotes

In his book The American Way of Life, Ashley Montagu writes, “The trained inability of any human being to weep is a lessening of his capacity to be human – a defect which usually goes deeper than the mere inability to cry” (p. 248).

According to Montagu (2000), “To be human is to weep” (p. 248).

“If we feel like it,” writes Montagu (2000), “let us have a good cry – and clear our minds of those cobwebs of confusion which have for so long prevented us from understanding the intellectual necessity of crying” (p. 248).

One distinguished anthropologist calls the American male’s reluctance to cry “a lessening of his capacity to be human” (Montagu, 2000, p. 248).

Brief Quotes embedded in your sentences or paragraphs

Montagu (2000) finds it “very sad” that American men have a “trained inability” to shed tears (p. 248).

When my grandfather died, all the members of my family – men and women alike – wept openly.  We have never been ashamed to cry. As Montagu (2000) writes, “to be human is to weep” (p. 248). I am sure we are more human, and in better mental and physical health, because we are able to express our feelings without artificial restraints.

Substantial Quote with indents

Montagu (2000) argues that it is both unnatural and harmful for American males not to cry:

To be human is to weep.  The human species is the only one in the whole world of animate nature that sheds tears.  The trained inability of any human being to weep is a lessening of his capacity to be human – a defect that usually goes deeper than the mere inability to cry…. It is very sad. (p. 248)

Subject Guide