4.7 Understanding Plagiarism Due to Improper Citation

One kind of academic integrity breach — plagiarism — can be due to a lack of understanding about how to properly use and cite sources.

To cite properly, you must know where to provide citations and when quotation marks are required.


You must cite material as soon as it is used in your assignment — for instance, you cannot wait until the end of a paragraph or page to cite. In other words, the answer to the question “How do I know this?” must be very clear at each point that information from a source is conveyed. This means that when you’re writing a research-heavy assignment or summarizing from a source at length, you may need to cite a source in all (or nearly all) of the sentences in a paragraph.

If there is no citation and the information in a sentence is not common knowledge, the reader must assume that the source of the material is you — that it is your thoughts/analysis/etc. This is why not providing a citation for information learned from a source is considered plagiarism: you have signaled to the reader incorrectly that the material originated from you instead of the source.

If you cite a source only in the end list of sources, then you have not cited it fully and correctly, as you have not indicated where in the body of your assignment the information from that source has been used.

In addition to a citation, quotation marks are required when you are citing someone else’s words. (See section 3.2 of this handbook for information on the exception to this rule: long quotations.)

Quotation Marks

When you copy the wording of a source, that is a direct quotation of the source, and so the words must be enclosed in quotation marks.

Whenever there is a citation but no quotation marks, the writer is telling the reader that the information in that sentence came from the source but that the writer put that information into their own words. So, copying the words of a source but not putting quotation marks around them is a form of plagiarism, as the writer is taking credit for the wording, when the wording is someone else’s.


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Academic Integrity Handbook by Donnie Calabrese; Emma Russell; Jasmine Hoover; and Tammy Byrne is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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