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Avoiding Plagiarism

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is presenting another's words, analysis, interpretation or other creations as your own. It is academically dishonest and compromises not just your reputation but indirectly the integrity of others. Plagiarism is not the same thing as copyright. Violating copyright is a legal concept, plagiarism is an ethical concept; you can commit plagiarism without violating copyright and, you can violate copyright without committing plagiarism. 

Goshen College's Commitment to Community Standards states that "Examples of academic dishonesty include, but are not all inclusive of, the following: plagiarism, cheating on assignments or exams, falsification of data, sabotaging the work of another and aiding in academic dishonesty of another."

Avoiding Plagiarism from PALNI on Vimeo.

Forms of plagiarism:

  • Quoting without attribution
  • Paraphrasing or rephrasing without attribution
  • Presenting an interpretation, ideas or opinions without attribution
  • Using graphs, statistics, art, music that are not considered to be common knowledge without attribution
  • Self plagiarism, including reusing the same paper for multiple classes.



Plagiarized idea: If you take away all other forms of government people will natural create a democracy.

Attributed: According to Thomas Paine, in the absence of any other form of government people would create a democracy.


Plagiarized quote: Thomas Paine said that he offered simple fact, plain arguments and common sense. 

Attributed:  "I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments and common sense." Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Attributed:  Thomas Paine said that he "offered simple fact, plain arguments and common sense."


Original text: "Europe is too thickly planted with kingdoms to be long at peace, and whenever a war breaks out between England and any foreign power, the trade of America goes to ruin, BECAUSE OF HER CONNECTION WITH ENGLAND." (Source, Thomas Paine's Common Sense)  

Plagiarism through paraphrase:  Because Europe has so many kingdoms when England is at war with one of them American trade is ruined because of her connection with England.  


Plagiarized interpretation: The first modern journalist was Thomas Paine because of the way he used media.

Attributed: According to Katz, Thomas Paine can be considered the first modern journalist because of his effective use of media (print) against a power structure (monarchy). Jon Katz The Age of Paine Wired 3.05 May 1995 

Self-Plagiarism:  Reuse of your own content such as text, charts or graphs, without attribution. This is considered plagiarism because it does not credit the original source and misleads readers into believing this new, original, content. This may also be a copyright violation because you as the author may have given your copyright to the publisher. Your publisher agreement may have specific limits on the amount of content that can be reused and, how to give attribution. 

Avoiding Plagiarism

Digital content, e.g. pdfs of articles, make it easy to accidently plagiarize by using copy/paste then forgetting to provide attribution. Organizing your research will not only help you complete your assignments, it will help you avoid plagiarism. 

  • Use a citation manager such as RefWorks or Zotero so you know what sources you've consulted and plan to use.
  • Keep copies of the articles you plan to cite in a folder (electronic or paper) and make a note of how this article relates to your research such as 'supports my position that chocolate is culturally associated with women' or 'I have to refute this article's position that chocolate should be banned in public schools.' 
  • REPHRASE, don't paraphrase.  Make the same point in your own words as if you were explaining it to someone. When it comes time to write your paper you WILL be that other person. 
  • Start a rough outline and include quotes AS quotes along with a note on why that quote is important to your argument.
  • DO NOT copy and paste large chunks of text as a start to your paper.  

Should I cite flow chart

A flowchart that will help you decide whether you need to cite a particular source of information.

Image Credit: Should I cite? flowchart by University Library Service, Cardiff University under CC-BY

Further Reading:

Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement of Best Practices,  Council of Writing Program Administrators

Philosophy Department Guidelines Regarding Plagiarism:  Notre Dame's Philosophy Department's guidelines provides both guidance and more detailed explanations of why certain practices, such as paraphrasing or failing to quote, even with attribution, is academically dishonest.  

5 Famous Plagiarists: Where are they Now? 

Detecting Plagiarism

Plagiarism may be a deliberate act or the result of careless research/study habits.  As faculty it is our responsibility to investigate suspected plagiarism and take corrective action including reporting Academic Dishonesty. The responsibilities of faculty and instructors are outlined in the Commitment to Community Standards.

Tools for detecting plagiarism:

  • Google services:  for best results put suspected text in quotes "suspected text" when searching. 
    • Google Books: if you suspect that text came from a book searching for specific sentences or blocks of text directly through the  Google Books native interface is more effective than searching the general Google site.
    • Google Scholar: if you suspect that text came from an article or paper searching for specific sentences of blocks of text directly through Google Scholar is more effective than searching the general Google site.
  • Wcopyfind: downloadable program. "WCopyfind is an open source windows-based program that compares documents and reports similarities.." 

Other  no-fee services and sites:

  • Dogpile searches across Bing, Yahoo and Google simultaneously. 
  • HOTBOT: searches across multiple browsers simultaneously.

Terms and Definitions

Self-plagiarism:  Reuse of your own content such as text, charts or graphs, without attribution. This is considered plagiarism because it does not credit the original source and misleads readers into believing this original (new to that publication) content. This may also be a copyright violation because you as the author may have given your copyright to the publisher. Your publisher agreement may have specific limits on the amount of content that can be reused and, how to give attribution.

Common Knowledge: facts that are widely documented and are known to many people. Common Knowledge does not to be documented. 


  • names of the planets
  • atomic weight of an element
  • three branches of the Federal Government
  • Sqt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was recorded by the Beatles 
  • "Winter is coming" 

Copyright: a form of intellectual property governed by US Code Title 17  The copyright owner is not necessarily the author or creator of a work. 

Fair Use: legal exceptions to the rights of a copyright holder covered by section 107 of the copyright law.  Fair use allows us to perform many common research and publication tasks without the permission. These tasks include quoting passages from a copyrighted work or make a copy of an article for personal study.

Intellectual Property: In the United States intellectual property includes patent, copyright, trademark and, trade secret.  Of those only trade secret is NOT protected by law.

Moral Rights: sometimes referred to as "droit moral".  While recognized in many international statues it is not specifically addressed in US law.  An example of a moral right is the right to have your name associated with your work.  

Paraphrase: Taking another's work, such as a sentence or a paragraph, and changing a few words is a form of plagiarism. Paraphrasing is a restatement, according to M. Fleming's research writing tutorial  "a paraphrase is any restatement; in academic writing, however, the wording and syntax of a paraphrase must be quite distinct from the original quotation in order to avoid plagiarism."

Plagiarism: presenting another's work as your own. 

Quotations: Presenting a section of work, verbatim. Quotes should be enclosed with quote marks ("quote text") and given attribution.

Self-plagiarism: Quoting passages or reusing charts etc. from your own work.

Reusing Content--how much is allowed?

Is this in the Public Domain? (no longer under copyright) The Copyright Slider can help you determine if a publication is in the public domain or not.  

Published in traditional Science/Technology/Medicine (STM)?  The International Association of STM Publishers has specific guidelines for how much of a previously published work (yours or someone else) can be reused without permission from the publisher and, how it should be cited. If your publisher is listed. Note: these are publisher guidelines, they are not law. Your use may still be considered fair use and allowed under the copyright law. 

Published under a Creative Commons License? Use the Creative Commons Attribution Guidelines for how to acknowledge the original source of the publication. 

Goshen College Commitment to Community Standards

As an academic community that expects integrity, we seek for truth and knowledge by requiring intellectual and personal honesty in learning, teaching, research and service. As an academic community of integrity, we uphold personal accountability and take action against wrongdoing.

Commitment to Community Standards, Goshen College