Avoiding Plagiarism

How to avoid plagiarism in your writing

As an AUC student you will be taking courses in The Writing Program where concrete examples of what constitutes plagiarism, and how to avoid it, will be explained to you.  However, plagiarism can occur not only in writing but also by plagiarising ideas, visual images, computer code, and even a musical composition. A few examples below will illustrate the more obvious types of plagiarism in writing but there is a range of plagiarism which you should be aware of, so that you will not be accused of violating the rules of good academic writing. This range goes from the most deliberate forms of plagiarising like buying or copying papers off the internet or paying someone to write a paper for you, to possibly paraphrasing or citing someone's ideas without a proper attribution. (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/)

Take this online tutorial at Indiana University testing you on your knowledge of what might constitute plagiarism in your work.  Click on this practice.html link for the tutorial.


Look at the following examples of plagiarism in paraphrase and summary, and also an accepted version, will give you an idea about what you may and may not do when dealing with a written source.

(From M. Meyers The Little, Brown Guide to Writing Research Papers, 2nd edition, London: Scott Foresman, 1985, p. 93-94) N.B. fonts and formatting have been adapted.

Original Passage (a description of Horatio Alger's novels)
from Russel B Nye
The Embarassed Muse: The Popular Arts in America.
New York:Dial, 1970. p. 67.

Original Passage

His books celebrated, in unmistakable terms, the values of individualism, self-reliance, and alertness to opportunity, and it was noticeable to his readers that success came to good boys, not bad ones. The old-fashioned virtues paid off in Alger's plots; it was not always exactly clear why, but they did, and the boy who was honest, punctual, respectable, and who honored his parents and his employer found success.

Here is a plagiarized version of this passage:


Alger's novels are populated by good boys who embody the values of individualism, self-reliance, and alertness that his books celebrated. The boys who were honest, punctual, respectable, and who honored their parents and employer were always rewarded for their old-fashioned virtues.

The writer has changed a few words around, adding some while deleting others, but the passage is essentially the same as the original. Had a parenthetical reference been placed at the end of the passage acknowledging that the ideas had come from Ney, this version would still be plagiarized because the language of the passage is being passed off as the writer's own. Both the language and the ideas of a source must be acknowledged. The next example is not so blatant as the version above, but it is a problem nonetheless:



Nye points out that all of Alger's heroes are self-reliant individuals who stay alert to opportunity. These boys are paid off for their old-fashioned virtues of honesty, punctuality, and respectability (67).

This version makes clear that the ideas are Nye's' both by naming him in the text and the parenthetical reference at the end ' but the language still relies too heavily on the original wording. Although some nouns and adjectives have been changed, the wording remains basically Nye's and so the passage is plagiarized. Even if quotation marks had been used for the exact wording ('opportunity', 'paid off,' and 'old-fashioned virtues') the paraphrase is too close to the original.  Moreover, a string of quoted worlds would be awkward and distracting.  The next version, however, represents an acceptable paraphrase:

Acceptable paraphrase

Alger's boy heroes, according to Russel B. Nye, represented the individual's ability to help himself rise above whatever circumstances limited him. The boy who was well-behaved at home and at work could count on being well-rewarded. As Nye puts it, 'old-fashioned virtues paid off in Alger's plots' (67).

In this paraphrase, the source is adequately acknowledged because the writer makes clear that the ideas are borrowed and that some of Nye's language has been used. The student has used the quoted material because it served as an effective encapsulation of the original passage. The next version is an acceptable summary (our emphasis) of the original passage:

Acceptable summary

Russel B. Nye points out that in an Alger novel virtue is never simply its own reward; instead, good boys become successful men (67).

Here the language is entirely the student's, except for the phrase 'good boys,' and although it is a concise summary rather than a paraphrase, the source of the idea must be acknowledged by a parenthetical reference.

                                                                                                       (Meyer, 93-94)