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Plagiarism and How to Avoid it: Why Cite

Guide on Plagiarism and how to avoid it

Why do I have to acknowledge (cite) the sources of my idea?

“If you steal from one author, it's plagiarism;
if you steal from many, it's research."

Wilson Mizner, 1876–1933

Of course American Playwright Mizner was only joking. Acknowledging the sources of your ideas and citing the works of other writers are actually important aspects of academic writing. They help you to

  • Strengthen your arguments and shows that they are based on research findings and not something that has been pulled out of thin air.
  • Document your research, providing the authority and foundation to support your auguments and conclusions. They allow your readers to verify your claims by going back to the original work you have cited.
  • Create explicit linkages between your own research and that which came before you, providing the rationale for your research and how it fits into the knowledge gap.
  • Avoid accusations of plagiarism.

It is right to give credit to authors whose ideas you use, just as you would expect others to give credit to your ideas.

Adapted from Bowman (2009) and Valenza (2004)

Plagiarism FAQ

Will I be punished if I plagiarised accidental?
Every case is different and will be judged differently. However, pleading ignorance or claiming that the plagiarism is accidental will not be enough. It is always a good idea to include full citation details when taking notes to help avoid accidental plagiarism. Refer to the library's resources on citation and referencing for help.

What if I write something and find the same idea in a book?
That's too bad, they got there first! You will still have to cite the published source.

What is self-plagiarism? Why can’t I re-use my own work?
According to the American Psychological Association (2010), self-plagiarism refers to "the practice of presenting one’s own previously published work as though it were new” (pg. 170).

While it may sound oxymoronic to steal from yourself, you are committing self-plagiarism if you reuse your own work without proper citation. Refer to Dellavalle's (2009) article for more details on the topic of self-plagiarism.

Et Plagieringseventyr (A Plagiarism Carol)