How Easy is it to Avoid Plagiarism? - Citing Sources Properly
some students learn that they must cite their sources and a footnote
stuck at the end of most paragraphs isn't enough, they worry about
proper citation. They fear that they will be commiting plagiarism
unintentionally and be caught without any explanation for their
It is not that difficult to cite your sources properly if you
attend to some basic principles of intellectual honesty:
- Unless information is commonly known or easily found in several
sources, you should cite it. Of course, what is commonly known
depends on the audience, but if a research fact or phrase is
not known by you, your professor, and many classmates, cite
it; it is better to err on the side of caution.
- Cite paraphrased ideas and unique wording as well as direct
quotations and little known facts. Proper citation demonstrates
the quality of your research as you acknowledge your use of
- Try to use signal phrases, such as "According to _____ . .
." and "As ____ argues, . . ." so it easy for a reader to discern
where cited material begins. Then the parenthetical citations
of MLA style references, which are placed at the end of a sentence, mark where this research information
ends and where your own thoughts restart. Proper citation identifies your own
good thinking as well as effective research.
- Use one of the established systems of citation, such as MLA,
APA and Chicago. Each discipline has its reasons for preferring
one citation system over another so check with your professor
on which one you should use.
Of course, it is almost impossible to cite properly if you are
trying to write the only, meaning the first and the final, draft
the night before it is due! The best way to avoid plagiarism is
to take notes carefully and to start drafting early.
For more on avoiding plagiarism, go to Academic Honesty on this
site. See also Part 9 of the Information Skills Tutorial of the
UH Libraries' web site.