|Printable version|

When you are writing your research papers, summaries, responses, or other term papers, you will read many writers, and you will be asked to report the writers you have read. Sometimes you will like the ideas in the source and you will want to use those ideas. Sometimes you will disagree with the ideas and will still quote what those writers think and then criticize them. In either case, you will report what you have read. The most important question is how you can do that without plagiarizing.

What is plagiarism?

In university courses, in the above situations, if you use information you gathered from other sources without acknowledging the source of information, and make it appear to be you own, this is called plagiarism.

How can you avoid plagiarism?

You must acknowledge the source (give credit) if you use

- another person’s idea, opinion, or theory,

- any facts, statistics, graphs, any pieces of information that is not common knowledge,

- quotations of another person’s actual spoken or written words,

- paraphrase of another person’s spoken or written words.

** These guidelines are taken from the “Student Code of Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct of Indiana University”. (Here, for example, I did not plagiarize because I borrowed from a source, and indicated the source of information.)

For further information on plagiarism please refer to the following online sources.

  1. Indiana University has a very good page on plagiarism, with special emphasis on what is considered plagiarism in universities and how to avoid it. The pages about what is plagiarism and what is not are especially useful. http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/wts/plagiarism.html

  2. Capital Community College also has a good coverage of plagiarism and exercises on strategies to avoid plagiarizing. http://www.ccc.commnet.edu/mla/plagiarism.shtml

Writing without plagiarizing: Strategies

How can we make use of other authors' ideas and still credit their work? There are three methods of doing this:

1. Paraphrasing

2. Quoting

3. Summarizing

1. Paraphrasing

When you paraphrase some text, do not forget that you still have to cite the source of information in order not to plagiarize.

What is a paraphrase?

e.g. Davis(2001) discusses the influence of parents on their children’s decision making   process.

How can you make a successful paraphrase?

Important Note:

Example 1

Original paragraph:

This paragraph discusses Sagan's fascination with science as a child. It is a narrative paragraph and told in the famous scientist's own colorful words. When we paraphrase such a text, we should summarize his narrative without losing the main points of attraction science had for him.

1. He was attracted to science even before he knew the meaning of the word "science"

2. The stars, the universe attracted him with all their mystery

3. He wanted to be involved in this wonder and mystery and discover new worlds

4. He is a lucky man because he realized his dream of becoming a scientist

Our paraphrase may look as follows:

Example 2

Original paragraph

This paragraph discusses the basic concepts Milgram develops in order to explain the urban social phenomena. He coins special terms and offers descriptions for these terms. When we paraphrase such a text we cannot change the terms because they are rightfully the author’s, but we can acknowledge the source and paraphrase the rest.

Main ideas:

  1. Interaction among people in the cities is restricted

  2. It is restricted because there are too many instances of interaction

  3. Our capacity to process such an interaction load is restricted too

  4. Therefore, we choose to limit such social interactions

  5. There are two “dimensions” :

  6.  Anomic conditions rather than social conditions dominate the urban life

Having written down the main points, now we can proceed to make our own paraphrase/summary of Milgram’s discussion.

Example 3

When we read this concluding paragraph from Ignatieff’s article in which he discusses the role of myth in atrocities in the Balkan conflict, we see that he used a highly metaphorical language, and quoting him in his own metaphors and choice of words would be direct plagiarism.

What we should do instead is figure out what he suggests here as a solution to the conflict:

  1. War crimes tribunals and human rights commissions can be useful

  2. The function of such bodies will be: to show the truth by separating truth from untruth with the help of historical evidence, and to show the importance of finding the truth rather than believing in stories people have believed without ever questioning

When we have sorted out his suggestions and made a note of his ideas in our own words, now we can refer to Ignatieff .

2. Quoting

When should you quote? If the original wording of the source is very well-known and widely-recognized, or when the original phrasing is distinctly put together and paraphrasing would alter the meaning or weaken the effect, then you should use direct quotation from the source.

e.g. Bashevich Singer said, "I don't believe in miracles in writing."

e.g. "All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike - and yet it is the most precious thing we have." Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

How to quote?

e.g. 1978 Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevich Singer once said, "I believe in miracles in every area of life, except writing. Experience has shown me that there are no miracles in writing. The only thing that produces good writing is hard work."

e.g. "We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born." (Dawkins, 1999, p.1)


e.g. As Brown (2002) once said, "It is X." (p.43)

e.g. As Brown (2002) stated, "It is X." (p.43)

e.g. She argued that "It is X." (Brown, 2002, p.43)

Refer to style manuals for details

3. Summarizing

When you are writing a research paper, a term paper or reviewing for an exam, you may be asked to summarize the main ideas in a text criticize the approach taken by the author discuss the theme, etc. Your audience will make a great difference in the way you approach a text and summarize it. The notes you make for your own use will differ from the notes you make to discuss the matter with a friend, or from the summary you write for your professor. How much they know about the subject, how much detail you are going to include will all depend on the task and your target audience.

How to make a summary

A good strategy in summarizing a text you have read is:

See also documentation section

Writing the research paper


Written by Zeliha Gulcat, May 2004