Same page jump links

Plagiarism: A How-NOT-To Guide

[Printer friendly PDF version]

[Also see: Avoiding Plagiarism PDF Slide Show | PPS Version]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to plagiarize is "to take and use as one’s own (the thoughts, writings, or inventions of another person); to copy (literary work or ideas) improperly or without acknowledgement; (occas.) to pass off as one’s own the thoughts or work of (another)."¹
The UNB Undergraduate Calendar defines it as including the following:

  1. Quoting verbatim or almost verbatim from a source (such as copyrighted material, notes, letters, business entries, computer materials, etc.) without acknowledgment;
  2. Adopting someone else's line of thought, argument, arrangement, or supporting evidence (such as, for example, statistics, bibliographies, etc.) without indicating such dependence;
  3. Submitting someone else's work, in whatever form (film, workbook, artwork, computer materials, etc.) without acknowledgment;
  4. Knowingly representing as one's own work any idea of another.²

The St. Thomas University Calendar provides the following examples of plagiarism:

  1. Presenting another person's ideas, words, or other intellectual property, including material found on the Internet, as one's own;
  2. Writing an essay, report or assignment, or a portion thereof, for someone else to submit as their own work;
  3. Submitting an essay, report, or assignment when a major portion has been previously submitted or is being submitted for another course at St. Thomas or any other university without the express permission of both instructors.³

In academic writing, if you copy or paraphrase another person's words, or adopt their ideas or data, without giving credit by citing the source, you are plagiarizing - whether you had intended to cheat or not. And universities do not take plagiarism lightly. The possible consequences range from an awkward confrontation with your instructor to expulsion from university. Therefore, the best approach is avoidance.

Top 3 Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

  1. Start your research early.
    Expect the library research process for most research papers to take much longer than the writing process. Consult UNB Libraries' Guide to Research Success for general research help.
  2. Get full citations.
    Be sure you have all the bibliographic details (title, author, journal title, volume, issue, pages, etc.) when printing or emailing source documents, or when taking notes during your research. In your paper, you will need to fully identify sources of direct quotes, paraphrases, and ideas.
  3. Use a standard citation style.
    Each discipline typically uses its own accepted standard citation method, and has a detailed style manual which explains how to format citations. Ask your instructor whether one of these standard styles should be used:
  • Social Sciences: APA (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association)
  • Humanities: MLA (MLA Style Manual) or Chicago (Chicago Manual of Style)
  • Sciences: CSE (Scientific Style and Format)

Citation style examples can be found online, and the standard manuals and recommended general writing and research guides are also available at the Harriet Irving Library Research Help Desk for quick reference. Some of these can also be purchased at the Bookstore.

More Research & Writing Tips

Use RefWorks or Cite to automatically format citations. As you conduct your online research you can export citations to your own RefWorks database, and later use RefWorks to automatically format your bibliography using any of the stardard citation styles. See the RefWorks page for details. Certain library databases (such as UNB WorldCat, and databases from ProQuest and EBSCO), also provide the option of directly creating a formatted bibliography using Cite.

Properly cite Internet sources. The standard citation styles include specific citation methods for electronic information sources. This includes e-journal articles, e-books, and other e-sources available from the library, as well as other types of websites. Remember to carefully evaluate any information you find, as explained in the library's Info Search guide.

Paraphrase properly. If you summarize a passage of text, use your own words, and cite the source.

Use direct quotes sparingly. While the amount of quotation you should use depends upon your topic and your instructor's directions, avoid quoting secondary sources that do not add weight to your argument.

Make your own argument. While you need to cite all the sources you use in your paper, if most of the paper is made up of quotes, paraphrases, and ideas that need to be cited, you may not be doing enough of your own thinking. Learn to find you own voice in your academic writing.

Keep in mind that facts that are "common knowledge" do not need to be cited. For example, if you read an encyclopedia article that states that Newfoundland joined confederation in 1949, you need not cite that article in your paper. It is considered common knowledge, and can be found in many other sources.

Know where to go for help. Your instructor may be able to provide you with further help. You can visit the Research Help Desk at the Harriet Irving Library or make an appointment with the librarian for your subject area. UNB students can make use of the UNB Writing & Study Skills Program (located in the basement of the C. C. Jones Student Services Centre at 26 Bailey Drive and in the Harriet Irving Library, Room 116) and STU students can make use of the STU Writing Centre (Edmund Casey Hall, Room 102). Plus, check out one of the following web sites:

If you don't already have one, also consider purchasing your own general academic writing and research handbook - you'll likely need to consult it often. See the library's plagiarism bibliography for examples of general handbooks/guides and standard citation manuals available for quick reference at the Harriet Irving Library's Research Help Desk.

1. The Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed., June 2006; online version September 2011.
2. University of New Brunswick Undergraduate Calendar (Fredericton: UNB, 2010), sec. B.VIII.A,
3. St. Thomas University Calendar (Fredericton: STU, 2010), sec. 5.E,

Updated October 2011
Copyright © 2011 by Barry Cull, Information Services Librarian, Harriet Irving Library. The author grants permission to copy or otherwise use this document for non-commercial purposes, assuming it is not entirely copied to another server.