[ Home  ]Avoiding Plagiarism[ Mail  ]


Some students believe that you only need to credit a source if you use its exact words, but this is not true. Any fact that is not common knowledge (like "George Washington was the first President of the United States") needs a reference to the source. Here are some ideas from an article on teenagers and sleep from the newspaper called the Philadelphia Inquirer. Even though these are not the exact words of the source, it is never acceptable to write as follows:

Today's teenagers can easily have their biological clocks thrown out of alignment. This occurs because the changes of puberty make it easy for teenagers to stay up late at night, but hard for them to get up in the morning.

Notice, that this passage is incorrect, even though we have put the ideas from the source into our own words. The right way to refer to this information would be as follows:

Today's teenagers can easily have their biological clocks thrown out of alignment. This occurs because the changes of puberty make it easy for teenagers to stay up late at night, but hard for them to get up in the morning (Phillips H1).

The parenthetical reference gives the last name of the author (Phillips) and the page number (section H, page 1) of the article. You would also need a corresponding entry in a "Works Cited" section at the end of the paper:

Works Cited
Phillips, Shelly. "Sleepless in School," Philadelphia Inquirer February 1, 1995, H1, H3.

Use the checklist given in the box below to guide you in the correct use of sources. When in doubt, consult a style manual or grammar handbook.

Checklist: Avoiding Plagiarism

In writing a research paper or and other paper that uses information from one or more sources:

  1. List the sources in a reference list at the end of your paper.
  2. Keep direct quotes to a minimum: rephrase points in your own words.
  3. If you use any exact quotes from your sources, include a parenthetical reference to the page the quote is located on.
  4. Do include a parenthetical reference for every piece of information you got from every source, even if you have put the information into your own words.

This page presents only the rudiments of the correct MLA format for citing journal articles. For more information on MLA format, try this link.


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