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Avoiding Plagiarism

pla·gia·rism n.
The act of presenting another person’s literary, artistic, or musical work as one’s own.
World Book Online Reference Center

Throughout your academic and professional career you should give credit to those who help you. Sometimes this is just a “thank you” to a teacher at the end of tutorial. When you are using resources to help you in writing papers, speeches, and reports, you should credit those who have shared their knowledge. Essentially, you are borrowing from their knowledge and you need to “thank” the source for what you have gained. You are also responsible for letting your readers know where they can find out more about your topic. You can give this credit by following the guidelines given in this chapter on Citation and Appropriate Use of Information.

Plagiarism – from your Ravenscroft Student Handbook
4. Plagiarism
Plagiarism “is the act of using another person’s ideas or expressions without acknowledging the source” or giving the “impression that you have written or thought something that you have in fact borrowed from someone else.”^1^ Additionally, plagiarism includes borrowing ideas which are not commonly accepted and which can be credited to a particular source. Intent need not be a part of the offense. It is the uncredited or unacknowledged use, rather than an intent to use someone else’s work that is central to the offense.

  • “Electronic,” “high tech,” or “Web-based plagiarism” also can be a significant problem in the Internet era. Downloading or “cutting and pasting” information directly into a paper from the Internet or other electronic sources without quotations or citation of that source is yet another form of plagiarism.
  • Related to the issue of plagiarism is the question of “self-plagiarism,” that is borrowing from oneself, specifically, the act of submitting a paper in one course that has previously been submitted to fulfill an assignment in another. Also included under this heading would be the submission of a revised version of a previously submitted paper without first conferring with the teacher and notifying him/her about the previous use of the basic text. Such actions violate the spirit of learning, especially the idea that a student is expected to do the work assigned, at the time it is assigned, in a way that is responsive to the specific assignment. Consequently, such actions are similarly prohibited.

Although students should feel free to use the ideas of others and to build upon such ideas in research papers and essays, they must be careful to note when those ideas have been drawn from other sources, be it printed or electronic material. Students, therefore, must provide proper documentation for all borrowed words or ideas, following carefully the MLA guidelines (in English handbooks) and the instructions of their teachers.

1 Joseph Gibaldi and Walter S. Achtert, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Third Edition (Modern Language Association of America: New York, 1988), 21.

Actions that are considered plagiarism:

Are you confused about when to give credit to your source? This chart might help; if you’re still unsure, it is always better to cite the work. See your teacher or librarian for specific situations or if you have questions.

Need to Document No Need to Document
  • When you are using or referring to somebody else’s words or ideas from a magazine, book, newspaper, song, TV program, movie, web page, computer program, letter, advertisement, or any other medium
  • When you use information gained through interviewing another person
  • When you copy exact words or a unique phrase from any source
  • When you reprint any diagrams, illustrations, charts, or pictures
  • When you use ideas that others have given you in conversations or through email, including parents, tutors, etc.
  • When you are writing your own experiences, your own observations, your own insights, your own thoughts, or your own conclusions about a subject
  • When you are using “common knowledge” – folklore, common sense observations, shared information within your field of study or cultural group (e.g. Mars is known as the Red Planet.)
  • When you are compiling generally accepted facts that can easily be found in a dictionary or encyclopedia (e.g. George Washington was born February 22, 1732.)
  • When you are writing up your own experimental results
  • (from Purdue University Online Writing Lab)

    More about Warning Signs and Prevention of Plagiarism can be found on this site from Duke University Libraries:


    Ravenscroft Upper School subscribes to, a “plagiarism prevention system.” This learning tool helps students to understand the many forms of plagiarism and to avoid making errors in their academic work. For anythign you write outside of class, you will turn in a draft of your paper online to Turnitin for analysis. Your work is compared to other papers, websites, and database articles. It is fine for you to have sources, but you must cite them correctly and Turnitin will help you check your work. A guide to getting started is found at:


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