Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism


  • It's easy to take something out of context if you only read a portion of it! If you read the entire source, you should have a better feel of the author's meaning.


  • Anytime you note something word-for-word, immediately place it in quotation marks. Also note what page or section you found it on.
  • On each page, make sure you note the original source and the date you accessed the source. This will make citation much easier, especially if you are working with multiple sources or doing research over a long stretch of time.
  • Try not to mix your own thoughts and commentary with excerpts from your source. Keep them on separate pages, draw two columns on your page, or switch your pen color.
  • If you find it difficult to take notes with electronic sources - or if you find yourself drawn to the copy-paste method - print out your sources and deal with them in print form.


  • In order to do this, you must not procrastinate on your projects. If you don't have sufficient time, you won't do your best work, and it may lead you to make poor decisions when including your sources. Remember, if you get caught plagiarizing, the situation or your intentions won't be an excuse. Build in time to synthesize and properly work in your sources.
  • Identify which sources are best for inclusion. Understand when you have to cite. Then decide whether you should directly quote, summarize, or paraphrase. If you are directly quoting, double-check your notes against the source for accuracy. If you are summarizing or paraphrasing:
    • Make sure the source is fresh in your mind, but not right in front of you. If you see the original text, you are more likely to want to use their terms and sentence structure.
    • Check your writing against the original. Remember, you should have changed the sentence structure and the language but the meaning of the source should still be the same. Any language that is unique to the source should be placed in quotation marks or removed. You may find it necessary to do several edits.



What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using the ideas, writings, or works of original expressions of another person as one's own without giving credit to the individual who created the work. This may encompass portions of a work or an entire work. Works of original expression include but are not limited to papers, speeches, poetry, movies, videos, protected pieces of art, illustrations, and musical compositions.

Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional.

  • Intentional plagiarism is when you knowingly use someone else's work and try to "pass it off" or present it as your own. This deliberate plagiarism is considered an especially serious offense. Examples of intentional plagiarism could include copying and pasting text into your paper without citing the original source, turning in another student's work as your own, or buying a paper online and turning it in.
  • Unintentional or accidental plagiarism can happen if students are not aware of citation standards and practices within the American higher education context. Some students, for example, might think they only need to cite direct quotes and not ideas that they have paraphrased or reworded, they might not have taken detailed enough notes for a complete citation, or they might not know what does or doesn't count as "common knowledge" that doesn't need to be cited. If you plagiarize, your instructors can help you understand what to do differently next time. It can be an important learning opportunity!

Note that, even if the plagiarism was unintentional, you still might face negative consequences; possible consequences for students who plagiarize are outlined in the CSB and SJU Plagiarism Policy.

Plagiarism is an act of dishonesty and violates the mission and spirit of the educational enterprise at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University. It also violates the rights of other students.

CSB and SJU Academic Affairs Plagiarism Policy

Examples of plagiarism include:

  • Writing down information word for word, and neglecting to note the author and source
  • Taking notes without distinguishing between your words and another author’s, and then presenting the ideas as your own
  • Copy/pasting from the Web into your work without crediting the author
  • Using unique phrases or sentences of another author without acknowledgement
  • Using a classmate’s work and turning it in as your own
  • Buying or acquiring a research paper and turning it in as your own
  • Self plagiarism: Resubmitting something you did for a previous class
  • Direct quotes without acknowledgement: using the unique phrases or sentences of another author without including citation or attribution
  • Paraphrasing without acknowledgement: using the ideas of another author, even if you have summarized or reworded things, without including citation or attribution

Avoiding Plagiarism

To avoid plagiarism, scholars take accurate notes when gathering original material, use citations in the text of their paper, and create an accurate works cited list/bibliography at the end of their paper.

  1. Make a list of the authors and sources you find while gathering your research.
  2. In your notes, separate the exact words of an author from your own ideas by using quotation marks around the original author’s words.
  3. In the text of your paper, carefully cite each author and source. Each reference in the text of your research paper should link to a full citation in the Works Cited list at the end of the research paper.

If you have questions about plagiarism, reach out to your instructor, the Writing Center, or ask a librarian.

ChatGPT and Other Generative AI Tools

If you're planning to use ChatGPT or similar on an assignment, check with your instructor first about their expectations! This technology has only recently become widely available, and there's still a lot of discussion around when, how, and to what extent it should be used by students during their research and writing processes. Some instructors are fine with students using it, others are only comfortable with students using it for specific purposes, and some consider any use of it an act of academic dishonesty or plagiarism. If your instructor lets you use ChatGPT, you should also ask them if they want you to cite it or otherwise acknowledge its use.

Some section content reused from Cabrillo College's Info-Lit Canvas page, "Understanding Plagiarism."

A General Guide to Understanding Written Plagiarism