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How to Avoid Plagiarism

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Important Definitions

Plagiarism: An act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author (Source:

Paraphrase: A restatement of a text or passage giving the meaning in another form, as for clearness; rewording (Source:

Summarize: To create a comprehensive and usually brief abstract, recapitulation, or compendium of previously stated facts or statements (Source:


What is Plagiarism & How to Avoid It

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using the ideas, words, creative works, or expressions of a source other than yourself without giving them proper credit. Plagiarism can range from unintentional (forgetting to include a source in a bibliography) to intentional (buying a paper online, using another writer’s or AI ideas as your own). Beginning writers and expert writers alike can plagiarize. Plagiarism does not apply only to written works; it also applies to images, graphics, charts, music, videos, etc. that you use in your research.

This brief video from Eastern Gateway Community College explains plagiarism and shows you ways you can avoid it.

Consequences of Plagiarism

You need to understand that plagiarism is a serious charge in your school work and in the professional world.

This form of Academic dishonesty applies to individual as well as group work and may result in partial credit, no credit, or failure of the exam or assignment. In addition, your instructor may forward the situation to the Office of Student Success for further disciplinary action such as suspension or removal from the course or college in accordance with the YCCD Board Policy and Procedure 5500: Standards of Student Conduct.

Best Practices for Avoiding Plagiarism

There are many ways to avoid plagiarism, including developing good research habits, good time management, and taking responsibility for your own learning. Listed below are some specific tips:

  • Don't procrastinate with your research and assignments. Good research takes time. Procrastinating makes it likely you'll run out of time or be unduly pressured to finish. Plan your research well in advance, and seek help when needed from your teacher or from the Library & Learning Center.
  • Commit to doing your own work. If you aren't sure about how to complete an assignment, how to get started, or what your teacher's expectations are, talk with your teacher. This includes considerations when approaching group work. Make sure you clearly understand when your teacher says it's okay to work with others on assignments and submit group work on assignments, versus when assignments and papers need to be done individually. 
  • Take careful notes throughout your research process and as you begin drafting your paper. One good practice is to clearly label within your notes the ideas that are your own (e.g. writing "ME" in parentheses) and ideas and words from other sources (e.g. using a citation such as "Smith, 2005, p. 14" or something to indicate author, source, source date, and page number if there are pages). You'll need this information for your reference list or citations anyway, so you'll benefit from good organization from the beginning.
  • Cite your sources. Always cite the work, words, ideas and phrases from a source other than yourself that you use directly or indirectly in your paper. Regardless of whether you found the information in a book, article, website, or AI and whether it's text, a graphic, an illustration, chart or table, you need to cite it. When you use words or phrases from other sources, these need to be in quotes. Check out the Format Your Paper & Cite Your Sources research guide to learn how to cite your sources. 
  • Understand good paraphrasing. Simply using synonyms or scrambling an author's words and phrases and then using these "rewrites" uncredited in your work is plagiarism, plain and simple. Good paraphrasing requires that you understand the original source, that you use your own words to summarize a point or concept, and that you put quotation marks around any unique words or phrases you use from the original source. Good paraphrasing also requires that you cite the original source -- this gives credit to the idea, even if it is in your words. 

Source: University Library. "Understanding Plagiarism." Research & Course Guides, Iowa State University, 25 Jan. 2024,