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Plagiarism Video Tutorial - Watch a video version of this plagiarism guide

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of using another person's words or ideas and failing to give proper credit.

Any idea that you take from another source must have a citation. Exact words must also have quotation marks around them. If you rewrite the idea in your own words, make sure it is not too similar to the original and still include a citation.

Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional. Intentional plagiarism is what people often picture when they think of plagiarism. An example is using someone else's paper or copying large paragraphs of text and putting them in your paper. A common reasons for intentional plagiarism is when the student is short on time and it seems quicker and easier to borrow text. Or the student may be insecure about their writing ability.

Unintentional plagiarism is common and writers at any level are susceptible to doing it. Well-known writers and respected scholars have been accused of plagiarism. The writer may accidentally forget to cite or use wording that is too close to the original, perhaps through careless note-taking or writing. Every writer must thus be careful and aware to avoid plagiarism. Read on for examples of accidental plagiarism and ways to avoid it.

Consequences of plagiarism at TIU

Plagiarism is taken seriously at TIU. A first offense will generally result in a zero grade for that assignment and possibly the course. Further violations can lead to more serious discipline, including being expelled from the school or a degree being revoked. 

For the official policies, refer to your academic catalog or handbook in myTIU.

Why is citation important?

Turabian and Booth give the following reasons why it's important to correctly cite your sources:1

1)   You acknowledge the hard work of others. In academia, research, writing and ideas are often the primary work of scholars and students. Citing their words and ideas acknowledges the hard work they have done and how they have contributed to knowledge.

2)   You demonstrate the reliability of your research. Citations prove to your reader that you have done research and are not fabricating facts or ideas. If they have doubt, they can follow up on your citations.

3)   You provide a background to the research behind your work. One of the purposes of academic writing is to inform readers about the wealth of knowledge and research behind your topic.

4)   You allow readers to continue research on the topic. If the reader wants to research the topic themselves, perhaps to make their own contributions, your citations allow them to find the sources you used.

How can I be accused of plagiarism?

There are three ways students can commonly be accused of plagiarism:

1) Failing to include a proper citation.

Any time you use ideas or words from a source, you must include a properly-formatted citation for your program of study.

2) Failing to put exact words in quotation marks.

In addition to citing, you must also put exact words from the source in quotation marks. If you do not do this, you are implying that while the idea is from the author, the wording is your own.

3) Using wording that is too close to the original.

If you decide to put the idea in your words, you must make sure it is not too similar to the original. This is the most difficult error for people to avoid. You cannot simply change words or their order in the sentence. You must write it completely in your own language and writing style. If it reads too much like the original, you could be accused of plagiarism.

Other types of plagiarism

Changing words within quotation marks: If you use quotation marks, the words within them must be exactly as the author wrote them. (You should therefore take careful notes.) You can make small alterations that don't change the meaning of the text, but these must be marked. Use ellipses . . . to indicate words have been omitted. Use brackets [ ] to indicate words you added.

Altering the meaning of the text: In both quotes and paraphrases, be sure you accurately represent what the author intended. If you misrepresent what they said, this is considered academically dishonest. You must therefore be sure you understand the point the author is making.

Borrowing the author's argument or structure: If you borrow the overall structure of an author's work or their major points and argument, this is considered plagiarism. Even if you give them credit, this is not appropriate for an academic paper, because you should be developing your own argument and points based on their ideas. Book reviews or summaries may be exceptions.

Using the original sentence or paragraph structure: If you begin with the author's sentence or paragraph and change words, this can still be considered plagiarism if it has a similar flow to the original source. It is also not good writing, because you should be expressing the idea in your own sentence and writing style.

Examples of plagiarism

Original quote:

"However hard some things are to understand, it is never helpful to start picking and choosing biblical truths we find congenial, as if the Bible is an open-shelved supermarket where we are at perfect liberty to choose only the chocolate bars" (Carson 2006, 95).2

Example 1: According to Carson, Christians should not decide which Biblical ideas they like and which should be discarded.

   Plagiarism. This is a good paraphrase, but it does not include a correct citation.

Example 2: Carson (2006) states that picking and choosing biblical truths we find congenial is never helpful (95).

    Plagiarism. It has a correct citation, but it uses words from the original source without quotation marks.

Example 3: Carson (2006) says that choosing which biblical truths we prefer is similar to browsing an open-shelved supermarket to locate the chocolate bars (95).

    Plagiarism. Although many of the words are new, some of the words (underlined) are exactly the same as the original source.

Example 4: It is not advisable to begin selecting the ideas from the Bible that seem agreeable, as if the Bible is a grocery store where we have the freedom to select merely the delicious candy (Carson 2006, 95).

    Plagiarism. Although the major words have been changed, the sentence structure and flow still reads like the original source.

Strategies for avoiding plagiarism

Be very careful about how you take notes:

  • Keep a record of the complete citation information for the source
  • Indicate the original source in all your notes.
  • Remember to record the page number
  • If you rearrange your notes, remember to keep the source information and page number with the note

In your notes, keep track of the author's words and ideas vs. your own:

  • Have a system for indicating the exact words of a source vs. your paraphrase. For example, use quotation marks for exact words.
  • If you write down the exact words, be sure to write them down exactly. If you write a paraphrase or summary, be sure not to be too close to the original. If you don't do this, look back at the original source when writing your paper.
  • If you write down your own thoughts and ideas, be sure to differentiate them from the author's. For example, use brackets or italicize your own ideas.

Be careful when writing your paper:

  • When you include a source's ideas or  words in your paper, be sure to include an indication of the source. Even if you plan to come back later to make a complete citation, include some record right away. People sometimes accidentally plagiarize by neglecting to put in a citation later or forgetting where it came from.
  • Be sure to put quotation marks around exact words right away. Again, you may not remember to add quotation marks later or forget what is a quote.

Paraphrase carefully:

  • Putting an idea in your own words can be most challenging, particularly when you are looking at the original words. One suggestion is to read the original text and internalize the meaning, then put the source away for 10 minutes or so. Then try writing the idea in your own words, how you would naturally write it. Double check with the original to make sure you are not too close.
  • If you are struggling with putting it in your own words, it would be better to use a quotation than to accidentally plagiarize.