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New Mexico State University

Best Practices to Avoid Plagiarism Do's and Don't's, Common Causes

Do's and Don't's

Don't: Do:

take an idea, even when you put it in your own words (paraphrase).

put a citation in a footnote at the end of the idea or sentence.

take or borrow many words, even if you change most of them.

either quote exactly, or use all your own words. Then cite the source.

take an argument

mark both the beginning and end of what you borrowed. Ex: "as John Smith aruges...", give the argument, then give the citation in a footnote at the end of the argument.

take a pattern of ideas

say something like "Jane Doe has given a good overview...", Then make it clear what Jane contributed and what you did yourself.

take the quotes that someone else has gathered and cited

say something like "John Smith, as quoted by Jane Doe..." then give the rest of the citation. Borrowing too many quotes that someone else has gathered is bad form, since they've done all the work.

Common Causes

Cause How to avoid this

Mixing your own text with source text.

Look away from your source text when writing, and especially when paraphrasing.

Similar to the above, but due to sloppy note-taking.

Use quotation marks (or italicize) to identify someone else's words or ideas, etc. Always keep the citation information next to the quote, etc.

Last-minute panic

Allow time to get the work done. The University of Minnesota provides an assignment calculator

Insufficient resources to complete project

Check early to see that enough resources are available.

Incomplete citation notes.

Take complete notes. For photocopies, be sure to include the title page and its backside.


Get help: Ask Us! Librarians help with research and the Writing Center with composition.

Sage Advice:

  • When in doubt, cite. A very conservative rule is to give a footnote for anything you didn't know before you began the paper.

    If your paraphrase or summary extends over several sentences, use the author's name to mark the beginning of the material borrowed ("As Smith points out....). Then use a footnote or citation to mark the end of the material "(Smith, 1999: p. 35)".

  • Keep old notes and drafts of papers.

Sources Consulted in the Construction of this Page

Purdue University, OWL: "Avoiding Plagiarism, Safe Practices"

Colorado State University, Fort Collins, "Avoiding Plagiarism"

Indiana University Bloomington, Writing Services: "Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It"

DePauw University, Academic Resource Center, "Avoiding Plagiarism"

Rutgers University, "Information about Plagiarism"

Georgetown Plagiarism Webpage: Examples of Plagiarism

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