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Citing Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism

Citing Sources

When using another author’s intellectual property (from primary or secondary source material), it is essential that you properly cite your source.  Giving credit not only benefits your credibility as an author, but will also help you avoid plagiarism. Be sure to carefully document all the necessary citation information for your sources while researching to make the process much easier.

There are multiple formats for citation styles, and they vary according to academic discipline. The Modern Language Association (MLA) has a specific format for citation information that is to be included both in-text and on a Works Cited page. This format is used for English and some other humanities courses and includes stylistic conventions for the format of the essay as well as for the citations.

Similarly, the American Psychological Association (APA) has its own form of citation and formatting that is most often utilized by courses in the social sciences. Yet another style of citation is the Chicago Manual of Style, which is often used in research papers for history and some humanities courses.

You should always check with your professor about which citation format to use.

For specific information on the guidelines for in-text, bibliographic, and footnote/endnote citation, see the links below:

The Owl at Purdue: APA Style Citation

The Owl at Purdue: Chicago Style Citation

The Owl at Purdue: MLA Citation

UT Libraries: Citing Sources

Avoiding Plagiarism

In your classes, you’ll be reminded by your teachers often that plagiarism is against University rules and constitutes academic dishonesty.  Even if your professor doesn’t mention it, the Hilltopics Student Handbook reminds all students in every course at the University of Tennessee to abide by the Honor Statement:

An essential feature of the University of Tennessee is a commitment to maintaining an atmosphere of intellectual integrity and academic honesty. As a student of the university, I pledge that I will neither knowingly give nor receive any inappropriate assistance in academic work, thus affirming my own personal commitment to honor and integrity. (12)

You may know that plagiarism is bad, but do you know exactly what it is and how plagiarism occurs? Committing plagiarism means representing someone else’s ideas, thoughts or words as your own.  People plagiarize when they do not give credit to someone else’s “intellectual property” by omitting citations and references.

Furthermore, Hilltopics is specific about what constitutes plagiarism:

Plagiarism is using the intellectual property or product of someone else without giving proper credit. The undocumented use of someone else’s words or ideas in any medium of communication (unless such information is recognized as common knowledge) is a serious offense, subject to disciplinary action that may include failure in a course and/or dismissal from the university. Specific examples of plagiarism are:

    1. Copying without proper documentation (quotation marks and a citation) written or spoken words, phrases, or sentences from any source;
    2. Summarizing without proper documentation (usually a citation) ideas from another source (unless such information is recognized as common knowledge);
    3. Borrowing facts, statistics, graphs, pictorial representations, or phrases without acknowledging the source (unless such information is recognized as common knowledge);
    4. Collaborating on a graded assignment without the instructor’s approval;
    5. Submitting work, either in whole or in part, created by a professional service and used without attribution (e.g., paper, speech, bibliography, or photograph).  (12)

Here are some other examples of plagiarism:

  • You take ideas about a historical event from a history professor’s blog and do not provide credit for those ideas in your history paper.
  • You find a journal article with data accumulated by scientists about Japanese honeysuckle and use it as your own data in a biology paper.
  • You copy Mark Twain’s ideas about humor writing word-for-word in your English paper without any quotation marks.
  • You neglect to provide a citation and reference for information that you have paraphrased.

The consequences for plagiarism can be severe.  For example, you could receive an “F” for a course if you forget to include a Works Cited page with your paper! To avoid being accused of plagiarism, you need to give credit to the concepts, facts, ideas and words you find from other sources and use in your papers.  You give credit by properly using quotations or paraphrases and always providing correct citation and reference information whenever you do so.

If you are ever in doubt about whether you have properly cited source material, be sure to check with your professor or visit the Writing Center.

Other Useful Links:

See the UTK Library’s website on plagiarism.

See also UNC Chapel Hill’s handout on plagiarism.

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