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Best Practices to Avoid Plagiarism 

Summary:

Since plagiarism has serious consequences, there are many safe practices that you can employ in order to avoid plagiarism. Citing sources is the best way to build credibility for yourself to your audience and helps writers to have a better grasp of the information that is relevant to their topic or course of study. Mistakes can happen, especially when plagiarism is unintentional, so follow some of these tips, which will help you improve as a researcher and as a writer.

Reading & Notetaking 

  • Take notes with the same citation habits you would use in the paper. Use a signal phrase “According to [source],” at the beginning of your notes on a particular source, include in-text citations with page numbers any time you copy/paste or write a quote in from a source, and include a bibliographic citation immediately after the notes on a source end.
  • If you have a lot of online sources such as journal articles in PDF format, use a PDF reader to write your notes on the source directly so they do not get disconnected from the original.
  • Use a citation manager like Zotero and keep a copy of your notes associated with the source entry there (helps you cite accurately and also helps you keep your notes together with the correct source).

Interviewing & Conversing

  • Take lots of thorough notes; if you have any of your own thoughts as you’re interviewing, mark them clearly. Always make sure in your notebook or computer document you leave a space for your own ideas and not to let it mix with your respondent’s ideas.
  • If your subject will allow you to record the conversation or interview (and you have proper clearance to do so through an Institutional Review Board, or IRB) place your recording device in an optimal location between you and the speaker so you can hear clearly when you review the recordings. Test your equipment and bring plenty of backup batteries and equipment.
  • If you’re interviewing via email, retain copies of the interview subject’s emails as well as the ones you send in reply. If your email server allows it, create individual folders that you can further organize in order to have easy access if you need to go back.
  • Make any additional, clarifying notes immediately after the interview has concluded. For further information, please refer to Conducting Primary Research: Interviewing.

Writing Paraphrases & Summaries 

  • Use a statement that makes it clear you are referencing another source (e.g. According to Jonathan Kozol…).
  • If you are struggling with a summary, try to paraphrase or summarize the text without looking at the original source material, and simply rely on your memory. What sticks out to you about the original source is what will be important for you to discuss anyways.
  • Put quotation marks around any unique words or phrases that you cannot or do not want to change.
    • For example: savage inequalities” exist throughout our educational system (Kozol).
    • Note which phrase is being quoted and that the author is the one who coined the term, but you want to keep it for your own stylistic reason or because it will be important in your analysis.

Writing Direct Quotations 

  • Keep the source author’s name in the same sentence as the quote.
  • Mark the quote with quotation marks or set it off from your text in its own block, per the style guide your paper follows.
  • Quote no more material than necessary; if a short phrase from a source will suffice, don’t quote an entire paragraph.
    • Helpful hint: If you need to provide context, you can paraphrase part of that paragraph, which can lead to the quote. But this can lead to moments of citing multiple times, depending on your style guide.
  • When you need to give context to a quote or add wording to it, place added words in brackets ([  ]); be careful not to editorialize or make any additions that skew the original meaning of the quote.
    • Do: Kozol claims there are “savage inequalities” in our educational system, which is obvious.
    • Do Not: Kozol claims there are “[obvious] savage inequalities” in our educational system.
    • Note how the first one includes a part of your analysis that you will explore further explore. In the second one, though, you are suggesting that the original author is stating that it is obvious, when that is not what they meant, even though that is what you believe and will explore further.
  • To shorten quotes by removing extra information, use ellipses (…) to indicate omitted text, keeping in mind that:
    • In longer quotes where you omitted a sentence in between other complete sentences, maintain terminal punctation in between the ellipses. This is necessary because depending on your style guide there are rules to how many lines a quote should be, and you want to make sure that your research is not simply a document that is compiled of only large quotes. There should be more of your own ideas in the research project, then quotes.
      • For Example: “None of the national reports I saw made even passing references in inequality or segregation…Booker T. Washington was cited with increasing frequency, Du Bois never, and Martin Luther King only with cautious selectivity” (Kozol 3).
      • Note how you are indicating that you have taken out portions that are considered unnecessary and have continued your quote to the end.
    • You should use quotes with the most rhetorical, argumentative impact in your paper. The phrase in the previous example, “savage inequalities” makes an argumentative impact because both words have deeper meanings and together can be open to your own interpretation, versus simply only quoting, “Booker T. Washington was cited with increasing frequency” (Kozol 3). Simply stating this is presenting a fact and there is very little that you can do to interpret or analyze the meaning.

Writing About Someone Else's Ideas 

  • The name of the idea’s originator should always be mentioned in the sentence or throughout a paragraph about the idea.
    • For example: Kozol shows that a connection between race and the quality of education are connected.
  • Parenthetical citations, footnotes, and endnotes are used to refer readers to additional sources about the idea, as necessary. This is why citation is important so that your teachers or classmates are able to find the original source material if they want to.
Work Cited:
Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. Crown, 1992.

Revising, Proofreading, and Finalizing Your Paper

Proofread and check your notes and sources to make sure that anything coming from an outside source is acknowledged in the following ways:

  • In-text citation, otherwise known as parenthetical citation
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Bibliography, References, or Work Cited Page
  • Quotation marks around short quotes; longer quotes set off by themselves, as prescribed by a specific research and citation style guide
  • Indirect quotes: citing a source that cities another source

If you have any questions or concerns about citation, ask your instructor well in advance of your paper’s due date, so if you have to make any adjustments to your citations, you have the time to do so. You can also schedule an appointment in the writing lab and let your tutor know specifically that you want to make sure your citations are correct.