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Graduate Biology

Biological Sciences and Chemistry

Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Avoid it


Used with permission from Nina Paley and Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.


Plagiarism is a serious offense that can cause you to earn a zero on a paper, fail a course, or, worst case scenario, to get kicked out of school.

There are four types of plagiarism, of which two you are most likely aware and two you are not:

  1. Intentionally or unintentionally taking someone's words and/or ideas word-for-word and claiming them as your own
  2. Intentionally or unintentionally paraphrasing someone's words and/or ideas and claiming them as your own
  3. "Recycling" a paper or project, meaning that you turn in a paper more than once to different professors in different classes
  4. Taking portions of your own previous work and not citing yourself, despite the fact that your paper is unpublished and that it is your work to begin with

In order to avoid losing a grade, failing a class, or getting the boot from university, just make it a habit that you will cite your sources as you collect them for your research, even if you don't actually end up using them.  This way you won't find yourself in a position where you have the information, but not the source information (authors, title, publication information, pages numbers, etc.) to cite.

Also, citing your sources makes you a better researcher.  It helps you understand why we have standards for citation.  For example, the address to my apartment is based on a standard that we all understand:

number and street name, apt. #
city, state, zip code. 

Citations work exactly the same way; they provide standard information so that anyone can locate a source of information. 

Once you begin to create the citations, you will notice the patterns within the different formulae to help you distinguish, just by looking at a citation, whether it refers to a book, a journal article or a website...just like the address has different patterns to tell us whether we are being directed to a house, an apartment, or a business suite.


Just Because Your Put It In Your Own Words...

lehmanlibrary (2014, April 23). Just because you put it in your own words... [Video file]. Retrieved from

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