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Citing Your Sources

This guide is intended to help you cite sources, avoid plagiarism, learn about citation styles and available citation tools, and more.

What is Plagiarism?

As defined by Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, to plagiarize is:

"to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source : to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source." Source: 

All of the following are considered plagiarism:

  • turning in someone else's work as your own
  • turning in your own work multiple times in different classes (considered self-plagiarism)
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our "fair use" page for rules)

What DON'T you need to cite?

  • Common knowledge (e.g., the sun rises in the east and sets in the west).
  • Your own opinions or experiences.

Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided, however, by citing sources. Simply acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed, and providing your audience with the information necessary to find that source, is usually enough to prevent plagiarism.

Types of Plagiarism and Poor Practices

Download Types of Plagiarism and Poor Practices Table

The following diagram lists 10 types of plagiarism and poor practices that should be avoided. The top of the list represents the most severe with greatest intent to the least. The far right column provides focus areas to review for improvement. Types of plagiarism include:

  • Copying verbatim,
  • Changing keywords,
  • Mixing several sources together,
  • Self-plagiarism.

For more information see The Plagiarism Spectrum

Students Citation Table

Table Last Updated: September 26, 2014 by Mary Zickafoose

The diagram severity and types are adapted from the white paper, “The Plagiarism Spectrum” (Chu, Huang, and iParadigms, 2012).


Chu, J., Huang, R., and iParadigms, US. (2012). The plagiarism spectrum: Instructor insights into the 10 types of plagiarism. Retrieved on September 18, 2014 from