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Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism is both unethical and a violation of Stevens' rules for students and researchers. Learn what it is and how to avoid doing it.

Cartoon by Nina Paley shared freely from Mimi and Eunice

Avoiding Plagiarism

To plagiarize means to use the work of another without crediting the source.

Merriam-Webster defines "plagiarizing" as

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own;
  • to use (another's production) without crediting the source;
  • to commit literary theft; or
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.
Whether it's intentional or not, using the work of others without also including a citation for that work violates grant and journal malpractice rules.
Plagiarizing also violates the Stevens Honor Code.
Stevens students must adhere to the Honor Code or run the risk of having to face an Honor Board investigation.

What's Considered Plagiarism?

  • Using the work of others
    • Direct copying or paraphrasing:
      • Word-for-word copying of someone else's work, without citation
      • Copying pieces of one or more sources without citations
      • Paraphrasing a small or large portion of another's work without citation
    • Improper citation: Leaving out citation information or inaccurately citing a source
  • Reusing your own work
    • Copying one's own work from a previous publication or assignment without indicating that it was a previous work. That is, you can't use an essay you wrote for two different assignments. Should you want to reuse an article you published for your thesis or dissertation, you would need written permission from the journal publisher.

Adapted in part from The Common Types of Plagiarism (Bowdoin College)

How to Not Plagiarize

All you have to do is cite your sources!

When you quote or paraphrase another person's idea in your research paper, provide a full and accurate citation to the source you used in the appropriate citation style. By doing so, you will not only avoid plagiarizing, but will also:

  • Give proper credit to the author of the idea,
  • Allow your readers to locate the source of that information, and
  • Show the credibility of your own work.

Citing Other Authors

When incorporating the work of another author into your own writing, you may decide to do so in the following ways:

  • Direct quotation
  • Paraphrasing the findings, or
  • Summarizing the work overall.

In general, you will best show your grasp of the information if you paraphrase or summarize.


Determining the Right Citation Style for Your Discipline

Different disciplines have different expectations when it comes to documenting the work of others in your writing. One of the more popular citation styles used by college students is MLA, which is taught to Stevens' first-year undergraduates in the CAL 103/105 program. While MLA is standard in the humanities fields, the sciences tend to emphasize the currency of the research, so APA can be a useful style for students in other programs.

The list below includes the main styles of many academic disciplines so you can meet the requirements of the Stevens Honor System.

Plagiarism Checkers

If you want to make sure you're not inadvertently plagiarizing in your work, consider using a plagiarism checker.

Stevens students may have access to Turnitin through their Canvas shells and can scan assignments before submitting them. If your course doesn't have Turnitin enabled, ask your professor!


Online Tools

Adapted in part from Plagiarism Detection Tools (Science Integrity Digest).

Writing & Grammar Help

There are many reliable sources for grammar and writing help online, or go to the pros! Make an appointment with the Stevens Writing and Communications Center for 1:1 help.

A brief discussion of "patchwriting" in STEM master's programs

Patchwriting is a term coined to describe how students sometimes borrow from other authors who they feel can better describe or phrase a concept than they can in a sort of inadvertent plagiarism. This article from 2010 explains the issue and provides further reading.

Plagiarism in the Wider World

Copying other people's work without crediting them is a violation of standard practice in a number of different fields.

Students and researchers work in the context of academic and research integrity rules and requirements. Artists and musicians may claim copyright infringement if they feel their creations have been reused without permission. Journalists follow ethical standards that forbid the uncredited use of a source. Writers don't want to see their text reused without credit.

In short, whatever field you're in, it is always important to accurately and fully cite your sources.