How to Avoid Plagiarism: When to Cite Sources

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  • 0:12 Defining plagiarism
  • 0:45 Citation examples
  • 3:33 Do I need to cite a source?
  • 5:12 Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Doresa Jennings

Doresa holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies.

Plagiarism is a very serious matter in both academia and professional writing. Plagiarism in an academic setting can lead to you failing a course or being removed from school completely. Plagiarism in professional writing can lead to being fired from a job or finding yourself in court being sued. Let's figure out how to avoid this issue!

Defining Plagiarism

To steal or not to steal? That is the question.

According to Merriam-Webster, 'to plagiarize is to steal and pass off the ideas or words of another as one's own.' Another definition of plagiarize is 'to use another's production without crediting the source.' While intentional plagiarism is a problem, we're going to focus on unintentional plagiarism. While it may seem improbable that someone could steal by accident, it can happen quite easily with writing!

Citation Examples

First, I want you to take a look some passages that are going to come on your screen and decide for yourself which ones need a citation.

'Depression affects 1 in 10 adults in the United States.' Does this sentence need a citation?

What about this sentence? 'All raw chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.'

How about this one? 'It felt like it was at least 90 degrees outside yesterday!'

If you are keeping score, the first two sentences did, in fact, need a citation. The last sentence, because it was an opinion of an individual, did not need a citation. A good rule of thumb for determining if you need to cite a source is to ask yourself these simple questions:

1. How do I know this information? If you know this information because you learned it from someone else, then you need to cite your source.

2. Am I presenting this information as a fact? If you are presenting information as fact, you need to cite your source and give credit where credit is due.

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