Plagiarism can often be a difficult thing to understand.  Researchers compiling their data will do so gladly only to groan over what does and doesn’t need to be cited.  And, of course, credibility can be either gained or lost based on the citations (or lack thereof) in a paper.  We know citations are necessary.  We appreciate a citation’s importance.  But how can we be sure we are citing exactly what needs to be cited?

Plagiarism is the act of taking credit for someone else’s work without giving credit to the original author/researcher.  This includes

  • Using exact quotes from another work without giving appropriate credit,
  • Using another’s unique/distinctive ideas without giving appropriate credit,
  • Using another’s processes without giving appropriate credit,
  • Using words or images, both altered and unaltered, without giving appropriate credit,
  • Using words/phrases that have been altered slightly but still belong to another.

(Burnett, 2005, p. 214)


Student Writing

Each of these is an example of plagiarism.  Examples of things you don’t need to cite include:

  • “There are four seasons in the year.
  • There 365 days in a year.
  • The U.S. entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
  • The state bird of Georgia is the brown thrasher.”

(“Common Knowledge”)

You want to avoid plagiarism because you want to ensure you’re a credible, trustworthy, thorough researcher.  The thoughts you’re presenting aren’t always your own and that’s alright.  You’re supporting your work with already established work.  Hopefully, you’re using highly credible work.  And you’re giving credit to the appropriate people.

You wouldn’t likely want someone else to copy and paste from your work without giving credit to you.  Of course, plagiarism isn’t always intentional.  So…perhaps the greatest rule to help you navigate plagiarism is this: When in doubt, cite your source.

For more information on plagiarism, visit the following:

Is It Plagiarism Yet?


What is Plagiarism?

The Exception: Common Knowledge


Burnett, R. (2005). Technical communication (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

“Common knowledge.”  Retrieved from