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English Language Institute

Includes library and web resources in support of the University of Michigan's English Language Institute.

What is Plagiarism?

"Plagiarism: presenting others' work without adequate acknowledgement of its source, as though it were one’s own. Plagiarism is a form of fraud. We all stand on the shoulders of others, and we must give credit to the creators of the works that we incorporate into products that we call our own.  

Some examples of plagiarism:

• a sequence of words incorporated without quotation marks
• an unacknowledged passage paraphrased from another's work
• the use of ideas, sound recordings, computer data or images created by others as  though it were one’s own"
This definition is from NYU's Academic Integrity Website

Check the UM policy academic integrity and plagiarism at these links:

Rackham Academic and Professional Integrity Policy

Keep in mind that writing instructors can often spot passages that have been copied because they have a different style and rhetoric than the student's. Also. more and more graders have access to software like "Turnitin" that can identify content that is copied from other sources. 

Student Voices

Matt Cline, Flickr

Great tips from real international students at UM:

Q: What are some tips to avoid plagiarism?

"Understand the content and write it down using your own words (still need to put the article in Reference List)"

"Cite all figures, tables and images that are not produced by yourself"

"Not directly copy anything from the paper. If needed, rewrite in my own way. When citing papers, give enough acknowledgement"

"Paraphrase without looking at the original paper"

"Do enough citation"

"Just try not to do it.  I jot down my idea first and if I don't have the idea or don't know how to express it, I'll find some articles and try to recap or comment with my own words."

Q: Which online writing resources do you find useful?

"Google Scholar and well-written papers in my field"

Q: Which citation management programs do you use?

"I use Mendeley and Zotero"

Q: Which online writing resources do you find useful?

"The Online Writing Lab at Purdue"

How to Avoid Plagiarism

The key to avoiding plagiarism is give credit where credit is due. Some ways to not plagiarize include:

  • Take good notes as you read. Note the author and page number of where you read ideas and/or facts.
  • Create a good system of organizing your research notes. Make time to provide citations in your paper.
  • Make sure to use in-text citations to give authors credit for their ideas.
  • Not sure if something is common knowledge and doesn't need a citation? Ask your professor, GSI, or a librarian.
  • Make sure you know how to recognize plagiarism with these tools:

Different Forms of Plagiarism

Plagiarism Activities1  

1 Model taken from Rebecca Moore Howard, "Plagiarism, Authorships, and the Academic Death Penalty," College English 57 (Nov. 1995), 788-806.
2 Ibid., 799.
3 Diana Hacker, The Bedford Handbook, (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1998), 572.


Is it Counted as Plagiarism if I didn't realize I was Plagiarizing?

Plagiarism:  Intentionally or unintentionally using someone else's ideas or writing in part or whole in your own paper without proper attribution.

Accidental Plagiarism:  When a writer attempts or intends to write in his/her own words but -- out of ignorance, sloppiness, or carelessness -- fails to distinguish quote from paraphrase or fails to cite and document properly. 

Patch-writing: Students often use patch-writing, (pasting the student's own words into an author's sentence frame), as a fall-back technique when they are stuck at some point in their writing. As students become more experienced in writing they rely on this technique less and less.

Most common plagiarism problems, mistakes, and misconceptions

"I didn't know I had to cite that, too!"
Some students think they only need to cite direct quotes and statistics. While this is true, writers also need to cite unique ideas and unique phrasing belonging to someone else. Summaries and paraphrases of books, essays, and other sources of information also need to be fully cited.

"But I included a bibliography . . ."
A bibliography is not enough! Careful documentation of your sources at the level of the sentence is also extremely important because it is at the level of the sentence that you distinguish your ideas and words from someone else's.

Copy-cat paraphrasing
This is when a student attempts to summarize or paraphrase an idea or some research made by someone else, but adheres too closely to the other writer's phrasing and sentence structure. Even if there is a footnote or citation attached to the copy-cat sentence, it is still plagiarism if another writer's words are not enclosed in quotation marks.

"I copied and pasted from several different websites, and after I wrote the paper I forgot which words were mine and which were from other people, so I didn't know where to put the quotation marks. Then I forgot to write down the URLs and I couldn't find any of the websites again."
This is an all-too-common situation of sloppy research and note-taking methods with serious consequences.

This material is from Tufts University's Preventing Plagiarism: Different Forms of Plagiarism page, except the definition of patch-writing which is from Judy Dyer, lecturer at the English Language Insitute. 

Useful Documents

Click on the links provided to download a note taking template as well as an interesting discussion about plagiarism that is culturally framed.