What is Plagiarism?

Contrary to what you might be thinking, plagiarism isn't always a malicious act committed by a villainous individual who is out to nefariously steal someone else's words. Indeed, most plagiarism is the result of simply not knowing when citation should occur, rather than devious intentions.

To best avoid plagiarism, the wise writer understands what plagiarism is. In very basic terms, plagiarism is using someone else's ideas in your work without proper citation.

Plagiarism Flow Chart

What this means is that plagiarism can occur whether a writer uses exact words or a reworded paraphrase of source material. If an idea belongs to someone else, no matter in what form that content shows up in a the writer's work, lacking proper citation will result in plagiarism.

Because most people don't intend to plagiarize, avoiding the act is remarkably easy. Follow the chart above.

If an idea belongs to you, fantastic! No need to cite!

If an idea does not belong to you, fantastic! You MUST cite! You can either incorporate a direct quote or a paraphrase to use the information, but a citation MUST follow both.

If you have questions regarding a citation style not listed here, please contact the Writing Center for more information.