Avoiding Plagiarism

The term “plagiarism” often brings to mind someone borrowing, stealing, or buying words or ideas. However a lot of plagiarism is accidental and comes through incomplete citing of sources. This guide can help you avoid unintentional plagiarism.

A style guide such as the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is the authoritative guide to how you should cite sources, but your professor might give you more specific instructions.

When including information that is not general knowledge, cite a source both in the text and in your reference list. If you are unsure about something, cite it!


Quote a source when you want to draw attention to the exact words the author uses. For example:

Gini stresses “the importance of recognizing the significant role of groups” (2006, p. 63) when trying to understand and prevent bullying.

The information in brackets is called a citation and tells the reader the source of the quotation.


A paraphrase is what you produce by re-writing another scholar’s work in your own words. When doing this, make sure to use your own sentence structure and vocabulary.

Original work:
Holly demonstrated appropriate interactive play with peers and was placed in a general education classroom as a result of her newly acquired play skills. Aaron has demonstrated increased independence during free-play time by increasing his ability to choose a center and play with the materials at that center appropriately (Barry & Burlew, 2004).

Barry and Burlew (2004) explain that after Holly had shown her ability to play properly with children her own age, she was moved into a general education classroom. They also note that Aaron’s improved skills in properly selecting and using play centers reveal that he is now more independent.

Barry and Burlew (2004) note that Holly demonstrated appropriate interactive play with other children, causing her to be moved into a general education classroom. Aaron has shown more independence during free-play time by improving his ability to select a center and play with the materials at that center appropriately.

In the final example, the student cites the original authors, but uses too much of their sentence structure and vocabulary (shown in boldface). This should be rewritten, or else cited with direct quotations.


A summary is a concise version of a longer work, but still requires a citation. For example:

Both children improved their play skills; Holly could interact with peers and was moved to a general education class, while Aaron became more independent (Barry & Burlow, 2004).

The author cites a source because the information is from other scholars’ research, even though most of the details are removed.


  • American Psychological Association. (2001). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
  • Barry, L. M. & Burlew, S. B. (2004). Using social stories to teach choice and play skills to children with autism. Focus on autism and other developmental disabilities, 19, 45-51.
  • Gini, G. (2005). Bullying as a social process: The role of group membership in students’ perception of inter-group aggression at school. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 51-65.
  • Simon Fraser University Libraries. Understanding and avoiding plagiarism: A self-directed tutorial. Retrieved May 10, 2007, from http://www.lib.sfu.ca/researchhelp/tutorials/interactive/plagiarism/tuto...
  • Wallenius, Leila. (2004). APA style guide. Retrieved May 11, 2007, from http://www.uwindsor.ca/units/leddy/leddy.nsf/APAStyleGuide!OpenForm#books