Skip to main content

Advanced Writing in the Disciplines (AWD) : Avoiding Plagiarism

A guide to online and print resources for Advanced Writing in the Disciplines

Avoiding Plagiarism

There are a few points to keep in mind that will help you avoid plagiarism:

  • Start early
  • Keep track
  • Cite liberally
  • Know how to cite
  • Cite AND document

Keep track

As you work, keep careful records of where the ideas in your research come from by taking good notes, highlighting, keeping original printouts or photocopyies and backing up disks.

  • Record the author, title, and publication information of what you read.
  • Write down or highlight the URL if you include information from the Internet.
  • Don't discard the information or notes you have collected until the paper has been graded and returned to you.

Know how to cite

Make sure you know which style guide you need to use (ask your instructor or librarian).

See the Citation Software and Style Guides & Manuals pages in this section of the AWD guide for helpful links and tools.

What is Plagiarism?

Also see our guide to Avoiding Plagiarism.

Northeastern University's Academic Integrity Policy defines plagiarism as "using as one’s own the words, ideas, data, code, or other original academic material of another without providing proper citation or attribution. Plagiarism can apply to any assignment, either final or drafted copies, and it can occur either accidentally or deliberately. Claiming that one has “forgotten” to document ideas or material taken from another source does not exempt one from plagiarizing."

The following sources require citation:

  • Word-for-word quotations from a source, including another student’s work.
  • Paraphrasing (using the ideas of others in your own words).
  • Unusual or controversial facts not widely recognized.
  • Audio, video, digital, or live exchanges of ideas, dialogue, or information.

The Plagiarism and How to Avoid It guide includes information on fair use of print, images, music and film sources.

Start early and cite liberally

Citing and documentation adds considerable time to the composition of a paper. Always give yourself plenty of time to work on a paper, composing the bibliography and inserting footnotes as you go along.

Remember that the only time that you don't need to cite a source is when an idea is either common knowledge or your own creation.

Examples of common knowledge:

  • George Washington was the first President of the United States
  • Carl Rogers was a psychologist, and his theory of client-centered therapy has a great impact in the field of psychotherapy.

Example of your own creation:

  • In 2003, I experienced the coldest winter of my life.
  • In this paper, I argue that Plato's republic is a profoundly antidemocratic work.

Cite and document

When quoting or paraphrasing ideas, theories, data or words that were created or authored by someone other than you, make sure that you both cite them in the text, and document them in the "works cited" or bibliography at the end of your paper.