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9) Cite Sources: Plagiarism

A University of Lethbridge Library guide to citing sources.


What is Plagiarism?

The University of Lethbridge's Student Discipline Policy defines plagiarism as the representation of "the words, ideas, images, or data of another person or entity as [one's] own."

Plagiarism, whether intentional or accidental, is considered a serious academic offence. The penalties for committing plagiarism range from a reduced grade on an assignment to a grade of 'F' in a course. Under some circumstances, a more severe penalty, such as suspension or expulsion, may be imposed. It is thus very important to understand what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it.

Avoiding Plagiarism

It is expected that you consult and use others' research in your writing; however, when you do, you must cite the source of the information. To fail to do so is plagiarism. The following paragraphs should help you determine when you must cite and when a citation isn't necessary.

When to Cite

Whenever you are presenting the words, ideas, images, or data of someone other than yourself, you must cite the source. This includes paraphrases, because even though the words are your own, the idea you're presenting is not. When paraphrasing, ensure that the wording is actually your own; simply rearranging a few of the author's words or replacing them with a few synonyms is not paraphrasing and constitutes plagiarism. When quoting directly, place quotation marks around the author's exact words.

Most citation styles require both an in-text citation (placed immediately following the words, idea, etc. borrowed from another source) and a bibliography or reference list entry at the end of your paper. See our Cite Sources guide for instructions on how to cite properly.

When Not to Cite

If the wording is your own and the idea being expressed is your own, no citation is necessary. It is not plagiarism, as you are not presenting the ideas or words of someone else.

In addition, if an idea or fact is widely known and not disputed, it is considered common knowledge and does not need to be cited. This information is generally known by everyone within the discipline and can be found in numerous sources. When unfamiliar with a discipline, as many students are, it can be difficult to know what is common knowledge and what is specialized knowledge that requires a citation. It is always best to err on the side of caution. When in doubt, cite it.

Information for Faculty

The University of Lethbridge subscribes to Turnitin, an online software package that has been designed to help identify possible occurrences of plagiarism. In order to use the Turnitin program, you must first contact the Teaching Centre.

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