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Plagiarism is representing another’s idea as your own by putting your name on it without giving credit to the original author. Generally, this comes in two forms:

  • Direct plagiarism: Copying text or images verbatim from a source without giving credit to the original author
  • Intellectual theft: Using another's thesis or ideas on a topic in your work without giving credit to the original author

To Avoid Plagiarism

  • Know the proper MLA citation guidelines for in-text and works cited pages. The Owl at Purdue[1] is a great resource.
  • During any research assignment, take notes to keep track of where material was found. Most inadvertent plagiarism occurs when a student reads a fact or idea and forgets the source by the time the paper is finished.

Common Knowledge

Any facts that are considered common knowledge need not be cited. Common knowledge is information such as dates and historical information that can be found in any reputable history book or encyclopedia. However, it is best to err on the side of caution; if you have to look up information to ensure its accuracy, provide a citation.


If you plagiarize, you will receive a zero for the assignment and a discipline referral. For all practical purposes, plagiarism is intellectual theft, and will be treated as such.

If you have any questions or concerns that a part of your paper might be inadvertently plagiarized, ask your teacher. No one will be penalized before the paper is turned in.

On a Lighter Note

Check out Jonathan Lethem's article on influence from Harper's Magazine[2].


  1. The Purdue OWL. 1 Jul. 2009. The Writing Lab and OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. 6 Aug. 2009 [1].