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Academic Integrity: Avoiding Plagiarism

Learn what academic integrity means for you as an ODU student & a global citizen!


Person working on laptop and writing down something from the screen

What's your understanding of plagiarism? Find out more below!

Plagiarism is:

  • using someone else’s work without giving credit to that person
  • theft of a person’s work, whether it is a phrase from a sentence, a graphic, a chart, raw data, music—anything
  • a form of dishonesty, whether intentional or unintentional

Even a person’s original ideas are considered the person’s work, or intellectual property.

Plagiarism comes in many forms. Some examples include:

  • Reusing work done by another as your own, including a fellow student or a friend
  • Copying and pasting from a source and passing it off as your own
  • Using someone's outline or structure/organization as if it were your own
  • Purchasing a paper from a service and passing it off as your own
  • "Borrowing just a few words" from someone without making it clear that those words are not your own (MLA Handbook, p. 8)


MLA Handbook. 8th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Knowing two frequent kinds of plagiarism can help you avoid plagiarizing.

Word-for-Word, or Verbatim, Plagiarism

Using Someone's Words and Missing Any of These:

  • Missing citation in text—no mention of whose words you are quoting
  • Missing complete citation of your source at end of paper
  • Missing quotation marks or appropriate indentation

Paraphrasing Plagiarism

Using Your Words but Someone’s Ideas and Missing Any of These:

  • Missing citation in text—no mention of whose ideas you are paraphrasing
  • Missing complete citation of your source at end of paper

Watch our brief videos on each kind! Know how to recognize it & correct it.

Important Concepts to Know & Apply

Woman working on laptop with multiple ideas in her mind

How familiar are you with these concepts? All are essential to know in order to understand & avoid plagiarism. Click on each to learn more!

When we use information, words, or anything from another source other than our own knowledge, we need to cite that source and in an appropriate way.

A citation can be one of 2 things:

  1. A full entry of information on a source (a full citation) listed in a bibliography at the end of your paper (or another document, such as a book or article)
  2. A brief mention of a source within the body of your paper (or other document)

Both need to be present in a paper to avoid plagiarism.

What is the purpose of citation?

  1. Attribution - Giving credit where credit is due
  2. Accuracy - Getting the facts, figures, & ideas right when you use info or ideas from someone else; Getting the information on your source right
  3. Validation - Providing your own ideas & arguments additional weight & corroboration

What must you include when you cite something by someone else?

  1. Brief citation - Brief acknowledgement of the source directly in that same sentence and/or in a parenthetical citation (like this) in or at the end of that sentence
    • Typically at least 2 pieces of info about source, often: Name of person(s) + page no. or publication year*
  2. Complete, accurate citation of source (who, what, where, when, etc.) at the end of your paper in a list
    • Typically called Bibliography, Works Cited, or References
  3. Quotation marks if quoting

*Please review your style manual for any exceptions!

Quoting is repeating another’s words: A paragraph, sentence, or even a two- to three-word phrase can be a quote.

If it’s not your own words but someone else's, it’s a quote and needs quotation marks or proper indentation (see your style manual) & proper citation.

Word-for-word plagiarism is often the most difficult to avoid: We don’t realize how much we are influenced when we read others’ writings!

Paraphrasing is repeating information or ideas from someone else using your own words.

The Art and Skill of Paraphrasing:

  • Reread until you understand the text fully
  • Express or summarize in your own words
  • Be as concise as possible
  • Focus on just the essentials you need
  • Use a dictionary to help expand your vocabulary
  • Compare your version to the original for accuracy and for your own words–it should be true to the author’s ideas but your words
  • Double-check to make sure you haven’t quoted word for word!
  • Cite your source

Plagiarism can happen when we paraphrase, and we need to be careful not to plagiarize accidentally. Plagiarism in paraphrasing often occurs when we don’t realize the ideas we’ve incorporated into our knowledge came from what we have read--from others' writings--and we forget to cite the source.


Intellectual property is any mental creation: “inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs” (WIPO, n.d.).

Intellectual property carries a form of ownership & is protected by law with copyright, creative commons licensing, patents, & trademarks.

Respect of intellectual property is also reflected in one’s personal & academic integrity.


"Wha t is Intellectual Property?" World Intellectual Property Organization, n.d.,

Common knowledge is something “everyone knows” in a group (e.g., peers, nation, culture, discipline):

  • Common sayings, proverbs, clichés
  • Certain well-known facts
  • Typically no citing needed

Common knowledge is information generally known by an author of a text and by the intended audience of that text. If something is common knowledge, no citation is required.

Citing is still needed, however, when:

  • The facts include numbers, statistics, data
  • The facts are ones that you had to double-check
  • You use exact words of a writer, even if the content is common knowledge

Scholarly and professional research involves the following:

  • Learning from others’ ideas, information, & research
  • Building upon or rejecting those ideas using information, research, & sound argumentation
  • Contributing to the community one’s own ideas, information, & research in one’s own words

Proper citation is a must in order to respect others’ intellectual property, provide validation of your ideas & research, & avoid plagiarism.


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