Citing articles and avoiding plagiarism



Citations.  Every article mentioned in your report should be in your literature cited section at the back, and every article in your literature cited section should be found in your report.  Each time an article is cited, the citation should list the authors' last names and the year.  Articles with more than two authors should have "et al." in place of other author names following the first author.  Here is an example involving one single-authored paper, one co-authored paper, and one with more than two authors:

      Some biologists (Podolsky 2002), have said one thing, while others (Sotka and Sancho 2003, Strand et al. 2004) have said another.


Of course, if the authors--like Podolsky (2002), or Sotka and Sancho (2003), or Strand et al. (2004)--are actually mentioned as part of the sentence, then only the year goes in the parentheses.


Literature cited section.  References in the literature cited section should follow a simple format such as the one shown below, with author(s), year, title, journal, volume, pages: 

Strand A, Plante C, Harold A (2004).  Acceptable citation styles for research reports.  Journal of Literature Citation 6:121-126.




Your writing should synthesize, in your own words, what you've read.  Do not rearrange parts of sentences written by the authors or simply change, remove, or add words--these all constitute plagiarism.  Avoid quoting authors verbatim, even if you put the text in quote marks, unless you intend to comment specifically on their exact words and the meaning would be lost unless you quoted them exactly.  The following examples may help to understand what constitutes plagiarism. Do not risk having your grade lowered for unintentional plagiarism, or having your paper handed over to the honor court, which I am obligated to do if I suspect intentional plagiarism.


Imagine that a source (Smith, 2002) includes the following sentence:

Orchids manufacture their intricate devices from the common components of ordinary flowers.

The following two sentences, if included in your report, would be examples of plagiarism.  It doesn't matter that the author is cited.  The second sentence involves only rearrangement and changing of a few words:

Orchids manufacture their intricate devices from the common components of ordinary flowers (Smith, 2002).

Orchids manufacture, from the common components of flowers, their complex devices (Smith, 2002).

Do not quote verbatim.  Putting quotation marks around the sentence--although not technically plagiarism--is poor scholarship.  Words in quotes fail to demonstrate that you understand the idea being quoted.

"Orchids manufacture their intricate devices from the common components of ordinary flowers" (Smith, 2002).

Efforts to substitute synonyms for many words can constitute plagiarism and can also obscure the meaning of a sentence:

Orchids assemble their convoluted mechanisms from the general apparatus of average flowers (Smith, 2002).


Instead of simply reworking the sentence from a source, express an important idea in your own words, adding other useful details you've read about:

The complicated structures that orchids use to achieve pollination have evolved from typical flower parts, like petals, that in most plants serve more simple and basic functions (Smith, 2002).

To avoid plagiarism...

...your mantra should be: I will write in my own words using my own sentence and paragraph structure based on my own understanding. Om.

...your practice should be: Read a source, put it to the side, and take notes based on your understanding while not looking at the source.


Consult this webpage for more information.



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