Research Series: Plagiarism

image of thief stealing form a safe with a red x superimposed on top; caption underneath reads: "Don't steal someone's work!"Everyone knows that directly copying another author’s work is plagiarism, but there are also less obvious forms . Plagiarism takes many forms and the consequences can be severe, so it pays to be well informed.


What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is copying an author’s work and passing it off as your own.

This definition may seem simple, but plagiarism can be much more complicated.  Did you know that you could be held responsible for plagiarism if you paraphrase (i.e., to put in your own words) an author’s work without providing a citation?  Even if you cite your source, if paraphrasing is not done correctly, you could still be plagiarizing.

Why bother citing?

The purpose of college-level research is to locate and analyze literature created by experts in your field, then process all of the information that you found to create your own new ideas or conclusions. Citations are important, because they give credit to the authors who helped you develop your ideas.  Citations also give your paper authority, because they show that you have read literature on the topic and that your conclusions build upon work of other authors. When you provide proper citations, your professors will see that you understand the purpose of college-level research.

When in doubt, cite!

When in doubt, cite it!  There are some cases where you may not need to cite (e.g., common knowledge [explained later]), but plagiarism is a “better safe than sorry” situation.  If you are not sure whether a source needs to be cited, go ahead and cite it!

If you aren’t sure how to cite, ask a librarian! Your NOVA Online librarians are citation/plagiarism experts and we are happy to help you. Please contact us at NOVA for more help.