What Is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism occurs when a writer copies another author’s work or fails to credit the author by citing the original source. Citing (referencing or crediting) a source of information documents and provides readers with information on the original author and publication. Any research or writing directly quoted, paraphrased, or referred to, aside from general information commonly known, should be properly cited to avoid problems.

What Happens If You Plagiarize?

In the academic world, plagiarism can result in a zero, a failing grade, or even expulsion from college. In general, plagiarism is a violation of copyright laws, which are usually strictly enforced with monetary fines and restitutions. Plagiarism can be damaging to a professional or academic reputation and discredits the writer, sometimes beyond repair. However, most people take it lightly and copy away, especially online, unaware of the consequences.

Who Must Cite Sources to Avoid Plagiarism?

Everyone! Although citing sources can be tedious and overwhelming, it must be done to avoid legal repercussions and a damaged reputation. Starting in middle school, many students are now required to document their sources, which is good because it creates awareness and proficiency with the process at a young age. Turnitin.com is a website many educators use to make sure students’ work is original and without plagiarism; it requires students to submit their work online through Turnitin accounts hosted by teachers.

How Do You Properly Cite Sources to Avoid Plagiarism?

Each type of writing or assignment follows a proper method for citations and paper formatting. Usually, with academic writing, the teacher or professor advises students which style to use.

Here are the three most popular styles for formatting and citations:

  • MLA: (Modern Language Association) generally used for the liberal arts and humanities (middle and high school students most frequently use this format).
  • APA: (American Psychological Association) generally used for the social sciences.
  • Chicago Manual of Style: generally used for humanities and social sciences.

In general, the above style guides all provide rules for paper formatting (such as spacing, font size, margins, cover page, page numbering, page headings, section headings, and infographics) and citations (including footnotes, endnotes, parenthetical citations, references, works cited pages, and bibliographies).

MLA, APA, and the Chicago Manual of Style all have their own publications (in print and/ or online through a subscription), which are updated from time to time in new editions; make sure you always reference the most recently published versions.

Purdue OWL, or Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, is an excellent, reputable resource for assistance with research, writing, and citations in MLA, APA, and the Chicago Manual of Style. In fact, many educators refer students to this website. Click here for a link to Purdue OWL.

WARNING! There are many online resources for citations that give inaccurate or outdated information, which can result in huge errors with consequences. Make sure you use only reputable sources for citation rules. If students use online sources that claim to automatically properly format their citations and resources, they must know that many of these “citations machines” provide mistaken or outdated information. It is the student’s or writer’s responsibility to make sure they use proper formatting.

Remember, All About Writing is here to help with citations done in MLA, APA, or Chicago Manual of Style format. Although we will not write an assignment or paper to uphold academic integrity, All About Writing can help with the prewriting, research, writing, and editing processes.

Learn more about All About Writing and owner Christa Riddle at  www.allaboutwritingconsulting.com. Remember, with All About Writing, writing help is just a call or click away! Call us today to schedule your free consultation and get your project underway. We are here to assist with any phase of the project.

-by Christa Riddle

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