Plagiarism is a serious offense in the academic world; depending upon the school, it may lead to expulsion. Generally, plagiarism occurs when a writer uses another writer's ideas without giving proper credit. Unfortunately, plagiarism appears in some students' writing without their knowing how to prevent it.

Direct Plagiarism

The most recognizable form of plagiarism happens when the student copies text directly from another writer. In these instances, complete sentences or phrases from the original author are not marked with quotation marks. Direct plagiarism also occurs when the original author's name is omitted in citation form. If you copy and paste from an online source or type an exact passage from a book, you have committed plagiarism. To avoid this type of plagiarism, place quotation marks around any writing that is not your own, and list the author's name in a citation.

Paraphrasing Other Works

A type of plagiarism not commonly identified as theft of ideas occurs when another author's work is paraphrased. Paraphrasing takes place when you read another text and rewrite it in your own words, but it becomes plagiarism when used without attribution to the author. While you have not used the author's exact words, you still need to give the author credit in an in-text citation and in your list of sources by placing the author's name and page number of the original text in parentheses. For example, if you use the following quote: “ 'Across the country, communities are being challenged by the impact of a changing climate,' said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy," list the name of the administrator in your citation. It would not be enough to simply paraphrase the quote to say "Communities face challenges in evolving climates all around the country" without adding the citation.

Substituting and Rearranging

Two similar types of plagiarism occur when you use a majority of the author's original writing but replace some words or phrases with your own. One way to do this is to substitute a few words in a sentence with synonyms of your choosing. Another way to plagiarize involves rearranging the original structure of the sentence. In both of these instances, plagiarism occurs when you are trying to pass off the original author's work as your own simply by trying to disguise the original writing. To avoid this type of plagiarism, either paraphrase the original text and include credit for the author or use a direct quote along with the author's name in a citation. In the previous example, you would not avoid plagiarism by writing: "The impacts of a changing climate challenge communities across the country" because the rewritten sentence inverts the original sentence structure.


Reusing your own work violates rules of plagiarism as well. For example, turning in a paper written for a previous class plagiarizes yourself. Additionally, taking sections of papers you have previously turned in constitutes plagiarism. Self plagiarism also occurs when you combine several pieces of writing you have previously turned in to create a new paper. To avoid this type of plagiarism, obtain permission from all professors involved.