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Research - Citation Help: Plagiarism

Learn how to format your footnotes and bibliographies using Turabian or APA style.


Plagiarism is the intentional and/or unintentional use of someone else's ideas as expressed in words, photos, graphics, music, etc. without proper credit. Whenever you summarize, paraphrase, or quote someone else's work without acknowledging the source, you have fallen into plagiarism. Many times students unintentionally plagiarize. Please see the tabs on Common Misunderstandings about Plagiarism and Tips to Avoid Plagiarism to help you practice academic honesty. 

Plagiarism is considered a serious academic offense. Acts of plagiarism can result in penalties ranging from failing the assignment to failing the course. See the tab labeled "Athenaeum Academic Integrity Policy" for more information.


In order to help you avoid plagiarism, this section covers common mistaken beliefs about how one incorporates sources into a text.

Switching One Word Is Still Plagiarizing

Many students believe that if they switch one word, that they have not plagiarized—but they have. The word order, or the syntax, or the way that the author wrote the information is still the possession of the author, and changing one word doesn’t respect that ownership. It would be as if someone changed the license plate and drove off in a car that he or she took: the car belongs to someone else and only 1 thing was changed.

Putting Information in Your Own Words Still Needs a Citation

Some students think that if they reword a passage, that they no longer need to cite it. This is what’s called paraphrasing—an important skill that lets the writer’s voice shape the text instead of too much direct quoting. Paraphrasing requires a citation. It’s still someone else’s work.

Cutting and Pasting Require Direct Quotes

One student who had little training in research thought she could cut and paste various portions of a research paper without citing or quoting. She thought because her material was factual, that it didn’t need citations. Sources do not have to be cited for 'common knowledge' - that is, for factual information readily available, for proverbs or common sayings, or for your own observations and experiences. Direct cutting and pasting, however, is stealing unless you give credit to the source.

Little Confidence in Yourself Can Spell an F in the Course

If you are taking others’ thoughts because you don’t feel confident enough to write out the meaning yourself, then you either need more time to digest this material or a visit to your professor’s office to have him or her explain concepts to you.

Non-Native Speakers: Memorization as Learning Can Lead to Plagiarism

If you’re from countries that foster memorization as learning, plagiarism can seem not wrong at all—but it is—you need to reword the material.

Never Assume That You Can Use What You Find Online Without Citing Its Source

Nothing releases you from the duty to acknowledge your use of anything you did not personally create yourself, even if it's free and publicly available online (A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate L. Turabian, section 4.2.3). This means that you must cite all online sources. For images "freely" available on the internet, be sure to determine the owner of the copyright and attribute the source in your papers. For easier access to properly credited sources, search for images using Creative Commons or use a search engine such as Google advanced image search (under Usage Rights be sure to choose "free to use or share.").

Other examples of plagiarism:

  • Failure to correctly cite a source because of careless note-taking or citation skills
  • Submitting the same paper for more than one class without the permission of your professors
  • Falsifying a bibliography (e.g., making up citations or including a citation to a real source that you did not actually use).
  • When reading and taking notes during your research, carefully document your sources. Capture all bibliographic information (author, title, date, publisher, page numbers, etc.). Clearly distinguish what are quotes, paraphrasing, and your own thoughts in your notes.
  • Be careful when paraphrasing material. It isn't enough to simply change a few words. To paraphrase properly you must rewrite the original passage using your own words and your own sentence structure. If you decide to keep any unique words or phrases from the original text, these must be enclosed in quotation marks. When paraphrasing, try using synonyms or related terms to reword the author's ideas. Change the order of ideas and the arrangement of sentences, but do not add new ideas or delete any important points. A paraphrase should accurately reflect the meaning of the original passage.
  • You don't need to reference common knowledge, i.e., information that is known widely and that can be found in numerous reference sources such as general encyclopedias. Examples of common knowledge may include well known dates, such as 1492 when Columbus reached the Americas; familiar facts, such as the fact that Canada has two official languages; or familiar sayings, such as it rained cats and dogs. If you are doubtful as to whether or not a fact or idea is common knowledge, err on the side of caution and cite the source.
  • Throw away nothing! Keep your research notes and keep careful track of all the sources you use in case you have to prove where you found your information. If using the Internet as a source of information, be aware that web pages can disappear without notice. You may want to print a copy of the web pages you use in case you need to prove that the information did exist.
  • Remember, the point in documenting the sources you use is to show that you have done your research, and that you are familiar with the theories and ideas surrounding your topic.
  • Citations also provide your readers with the information they need to find and consult the sources you used, should they want to research the topic further.
  • At the end of your paper, list all the sources you cited. This list may be referred to as Works Cited or Bibliography.
  • While your own words and ideas should comprise the bulk of your paper, you do not want to avoid documenting your sources because of a fear of citing too much. Cite when it is necessary. If you are unsure as to whether a piece of information needs to be cited, it is better to cite it than risk plagiarizing.
  • Introduce the author(s) of the material you are using. For example, According to Johnson . . . ; As Warner and Sullivan point out . . . ; etc.
  • When directly quoting material, copy the information exactly as it appears in the source, enclose it in quotation marks, and cite the source. Longer quotations (more than 3 lines) are not enclosed in quotation marks, but are indented and set apart from the text in a block quotation.
  • Cite paraphrased or summarized material! When you summarize (i.e., condense in your own words the main ideas of a source) or paraphrase (i.e., restate in your own words the passage from a text) you need to credit the source of your information. Even though you put the information in your own words, you still need to acknowledge the ideas of the original author.

MTSM Policy on Academic Integrity 


Since Mount St. Mary’s Seminary & School of Theology is concerned not only with the formation of the mind of a person but also with the formation of character, academic honesty is expected of all students. The institution highly values the virtue of justice: giving another person his or her due. In addition to rendering justice to each student in the classroom, a student ought to acknowledge the debt of gratitude owed to other writers and scholars with respect to language and ideas. Mount St. Mary’s students are expected to hold themselves to the highest professional, academic and moral norms in acknowledging and citing the work of others in the academic


Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating on a quiz, test or examination; plagiarizing material for a paper, report, or presentation; falsifying or fabricating materials for a paper or presentation; using materials in papers, projects, and presentations that violate fair-use, piracy, and copyright laws; and, materially cooperating or assisting in the academic dishonesty of another.

Plagiarism of ideas is difficult for some students to recognize. A student who is uncertain about plagiarism ought to consult the most recent edition of Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers or the Eugene Maly Library guide to plagiarism found at If doubts persist about what constitutes academic dishonesty, students are advised to consult with the library staff or the instructor of the course.

Process for Dealing with Academic Dishonesty:

A student involved in dishonest or unethical practices with respect to coursework will be held accountable. If an instructor discovers or suspects that a student has been academically dishonest, he or she should discuss the matter with the student. The academic program director (Dean of the Seminary, Dean of the School of Theology, or Director of the Permanent Deacon Formation Program) of the student will be informed of the incident. The program director in each division will make The Athenaeum Dean aware of such incidents. In the case that the student is a seminarian, the seminarian’s Formation Advisor and the Formation Director will also be informed.

At the time of the alleged violation, the instructor will provide the student with the evidence or grounds for believing the student has acted in a dishonest fashion. The instructor will attempt to understand the circumstances surrounding the actions of the student and will make a determination of whether academic dishonesty occurred.

If it is determined that academic dishonesty occurred, consequences will follow, according to the clarity of the violation; the nature and type of the violation; the nature of the course itself; the weight of the assignment within the particular class; and, the particular circumstances of the student. The consequence of the violation for the particular course will be determined by the instructor of the course in consultation with The Athenaeum Dean. Consequences may include, but are not limited to, failure of the assignment or failure of the course. If after meeting with the instructor, the student is convinced that the accusation or penalty is unjust, the student may file an appeal to the program director, who will convene a committee to review the case. The committee will consist of three members of the Admissions and Degrees Committee; The Athenaeum Dean may not serve on this committee. The committee will examine the evidence and will interview the student and the instructor to make a final determination and recommendation to the President/Rector.

Source: pages 37-38 of the MTSM 2021-2022 Catalog

Visual Guide to Plagiarism

Helpful Online Resources