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Plagiarism: Cite Or Not?

A library guide on identifying and avoiding plagiarism.

To Cite or Not to Cite?

To cite or not to cite?

When you quote, paraphrase, or summarize information from another source you need to acknowledge the author of that source formally with a citation. Novice researchers can sometimes have difficulty deciding when it is necessary to cite information, and when it is not necessary. Below are some guidelines to help you decide.

Cite it:

  • When information comes from a source other than yourself, i.e. somebody else’s “intellectual property”
  • When you copy, paraphrase, or summarize from a print or audiovisual source, or from an interview
  • When you use artwork, graphics, or data created by someone else
  • When you incorporate digital media into your project

Don’t cite it:

  • When writing your own thoughts, experiences, or conclusions
  • When using your own artwork, graphics, or data
  • When you are writing common knowledge information, including:
    • Folklore (the early bird gets the worm)
    • Common sense (get under a table or desk in the event of an earthquake)
    • Well-known historical events (George Washington was the first President of the U.S.)
    • Generally accepted facts (cigarette smoking has been linked to lung cancer)
    • Information that can be found (undocumented) in at least 5 credible sources
    • Information you are confident your readers already know

How do you know whether it is or is not plagiarism?

Use the simple flowchart by EasyBib to help determine whether or not you are plagiarizing:

General Guide to Understanding Written Plagiarism