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What Plagiarism Is

Plagiarize \'pla-je-,riz also j - -\ vb -rized; -riz·ing vt [plagiary] :

- To steal and pass off as one's own (the ideas or words of another)

- Use (a created production) without crediting the source:

- To commit literary theft:- present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source - pla·gia·riz·er n  

FROM: Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 14th ed, (Springfield, Ma: Merriam 1965, p. 1728).


There are two different types of Plagiarism: Deliberate Plagiarism and Accidental Plagiarism.

Deliberate Plagiarism:
  • If you copy material from an already existing resource (a book, article, song, video, etc,)  and you don't give credit to its creator. authors, editors or compilers by correctly citing it.
  • If you copy / paste from an online webpage without giving credit to the people/organization, etc., who are responsible for writing and posting the information on the webpage, by citing them correctly.
  • If you copy, download or buy a paper that is not yours and use the information in it, without giving credit to the original owner by citing them.
Unintentional Plagiarism:
  • Not knowing when and how to cite.
  • Not knowing how to properly paraphrase another author's writing.
  • Confusing what is or is not considered to be "common knowledge".

Plagiarism: How to Avoid It Video

Avoiding Plagiarism: How to Paraphrase

Paraphrasing is when you rewrite information that you have read but in your own words.  It's more than just changing a couple of words here and there.

To do it, you:

  • Read the content
  • Figure out the main points/facts, etc., that the author told you
  • Cover the info..or turn away
  • Re-write the information in your own words.
  • Compare the original information and your version to make sure you added the important points, and that yours isn't still too similar to the original
  • Put your paraphrasing into your assignment
  • Correctly cite where you got the information that you paraphrased from


Q: Oh....I still have to cite it, even when I re-write it in my own words...


Avoiding Plagiarism: Keep Your Sources & Citations Organized

Another way to avoid plagiarism is to decide on a system for how you're going to keep the info. sources you find that you want to use (or just might want to use) in your assignment organized so you can find them again when it's time to write and cite.

There's nothing worse than checking over your paper, and realizing there's a bit of information there that you paraphrased from a source, but you just forgot to put the citation in! (And it's always right before the paper is due - ever notice that?)  It's late, you're tired...and you have to either try to figure out what it was you used, or go find it again.

Whatever you do, don't just say to yourself, "It doesn't really matter that much; it's just a little bit; they'll never notice..."  If you can't figure out what it was, to add the citation...just remove it.

So...getting organized with your information sources / citations will help you avoid that kind of hassle.

The best organizing / storage system is:

  • simple
  • easy
  • no-cost (referring here to citation management software that costs $)
  • Has the full text of the information there OR a guaranteed way to get back to it quickly

Everyone has their preference; some people find it easiest to copy/paste the information source's URL in the browser address bar.

At this point, we need to warn you that in some databases, the address bar URL will NOT take you back to the item.

(There's nothing sadder than when a new student discovers that they saved a bunch of URLs to get back to their sources so they can do their paper...and the URLs don't work. Even more so when it's a day or so before the paper is due...)

The databases whose address bar URLs have this issue will offer an alternative link, often called something like, 'permalink', or 'share' or something similar. These tend to be found on the upper right side, or maybe along with other icons with useful links (like the ones that let you print or e-mail the item you've found.)

a light bulbBut to be honest, it's probably safer to get into the habit of copying/pasting/saving the item's citation instead. Most if not all of our databases now offer a button or link that generates the citation (that goes on the References or Works Cited page) for you, in the most often-used citation formats!

So find the link to generate a citation, click it, copy/paste, and you'll quickly be able to get back to the source. How?

By having RamSerch search for a phrase -  which will be the source's complete title:

  • Highlight and copy the entire title from the citation you've saved, and paste it right into the RamSearch box on the Library's main page
  • Then type a double quote mark ( " ) in front of the title, then another double quote mark after the very end of the title
  • Run the search.  (You're running what is called a 'phrase search' - all the words must be found in that exact order.)
  • The item should be the first (and usually only) search result. (You can also do this with any citations you find on the web, to see if FSU might have access to the full-text version.)

You're welcome.