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Image of a desk with a laptop and coffee with text saying How to avoid plagiarism


To avoid plagiarism, you will need to know how to cite the resources you are using in your paper or project. You should always cite when:

  • Referring to a source in any way and/or stating someone else's opinion, thoughts, ideas, 
  • Using an image, photo, graph, video, or other multi-media item that you did not create yourself. 

There are several ways to avoid plagiarism. You can use direct quotes from the work you are referring to, you can paraphrase another's work by using your own words, and/or you can summarize the main themes or ideas. 

Why Cite?

  • Gives credit where credit is due. 
  • Enables others to easily find the sources you used. 
  • Gives evidence of your scholarly research. 
  • Is the ethical and standard practice.
  • Avoids detrimental consequences. 

When to Cite

Direct Quote

A direct quote reproduces words identically from a source. The text must match word for word. 


  • When wanting to capture an exact definition
  • If summarizing or paraphrasing cannot capture the full meaning of the text. 
  • If you are responding to the exact wording and wish to analyze the text.


  • Direct quotes should be used sparingly. 
  • Don't take the quote out of context. 
  • Incorporate the quote into the text of the work using smooth transitions. 

How To Do It

  • Enclose the full quote in quotation marks. 
  • Always provide an in-text citation (review the requirements and format for the citation style you are using).
  • If the quote is long, check the citation style you are using for formatting information. 


Paraphrasing restates another's idea, or work in your own words while maintaining the meaning of the work. 


  • Paraphrasing should be used more than direct quotes to demonstrate your understanding and analysis of the source.
  • Paraphrase if a summary would not give enough detail.


  • Rewrite the sentence and sentence structure. Do not simply replace some words using a thesaurus.
  • Read the full section of text you are interested in paraphrasing. Close the text (Look away), and write in your own words. Then compare what you wrote to the original. 
  • When in doubt, cite!

How To Do It

  • Incorporate your paraphrase seamlessly into the text of your work. 
  • Do not use quotation marks.
  • Always add the in-text citation. Consult the citation style for formatting.



It's also very important to cite all charts, graphs, photos, images, drawings, videos, music, and other types of media. 


Common Knowledge

Common knowledge refers to commonly known facts, or information that the average reader would accept as reliable without having to research. These items do not need a citation. 

  • Consider if the average person would know the information. 
  • Keep in mind what could be common knowledge in one culture, discipline, or group may not be common knowledge in another. 
  • When in doubt, cite!

Examples of Common Knowledge

  • Smoking is a health hazard.
  • George Washington was the first President of the United States.
  • Tokyo is the capital of Japan.
  • Water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius.
  • The Earth revolves around the sun.


  • Read the source in its entirety. This will help you avoid using quotes or paraphrasing out of context. 
  • Take detailed notes as you read. 
    • In your notes, always put quotation marks around direct quotes you write down to avoid accidently plagiarizing later.
    •  Always note the original source you took the info from in an easy-to-find way so you can refer back to it and cite properly.
    • Try not to mix your own thoughts in your notes with quotes or paraphrases. 
  • Ask a librarian or a staff member at the Writing Center for assistance. 
  • When in doubt, cite!

Citation Styles

A citation style is a set of formatting rules used to create your in-text citations and reference or bibliography list. There are several types, but the most common are:

Be sure to speak with you professor to know which they expect you to use for your assignments. See our guides (linked above) for additional resources and as always, ask a librarian for help if needed.