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Plagiarism guide for students: Step 3: Strategies to avoid plagiarism

Main princip[es and rules to avoid plagiarism

Principles and Rules

• When you use someone else’s exact (or nearly identical)  words:

    Quotations marks (“ ”) + In-Text Citation + Reference in the Bibliography

• When you explain someone else’s ideas in your own words (paraphrase) or summarize their work:

    In-Text Citation + Reference in the Bibliography

•All types of sources must be cited.

Anytime you use someone else’s ideas, words, sentences, or data in your assignment you must cite the source in the text and  add a reference in the bibliography, as well as put quotation marks in the text when applicable.

Main strategies to avoid plagiarism

You can avoid plagiarism in your own work by:

  • Understanding when to cite
  • Documenting citation information DURING the research process
  • Using a consistent citation style
  • Employing citation software to help keep track of your sources

What is common knowledge?

Common knowledge is general facts and principles about the world we live in. We know that the world is round, that fish swim in the ocean, and that there are 365 days in a year. Information like this would not need to be cited.

Common knowledge can shift depending on the context of the situation. Information that is considered common knowledge for a specific field or college class may be more in-depth than information that is common knowledge to the general public.


Community College of Vermont Hartness Library. (n.d.). Common Knowledge. Understanding plagiarism: More about common knowledge. Retrieved from


Changing every third word in a passage does not count as paraphrasing. You are better off quoting and citing the actual source!

Avoid plagiarism

To cite or not to cite?


You DO need to cite:

You DO NOT need to cite:

  • If you’re quoting from, paraphrasing, or summarizing another author's work,  in any format including: web pages, books, songs, television programs and anything else you can think of that someone else created.
  • If using an image, chart, or diagram created by someone else.
  • If you're using your own thoughts, ideas, opinions, observations, or experimental results.
  • If you're using common knowledge.


What is Quoting?    
Quoting is when one uses the EXACT wording of the source material. Direct quotations should be used sparingly, and should be used to strengthen your own arguments and ideas.

When Should One Quote?
One should use quotes infrequently and only with good reason! Some valid reasons for quoting include:
•    When not using the author's exact wording would change the original meaning
•    To lend authority to the point you are trying to make
•    When the language of the quote is significant


Paraphrasing is when you create your own wording of essential information and ideas expressed by someone else without directly quoting. Paraphrasing is similar to summarizing, however summaries only include the essential ideas of a work, while paraphrasing includes more details. 

Since your paper should only use direct quotations sparingly, you'll probably be paraphrasing frequently. Just remember that you still need to express plenty of your own ideas. Use paraphrasing to support those ideas, and be mindful that you still need to cite paraphrased portions of your paper.