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There is an old saying that copying from one source is plagiarism; copying from many sources is research. This isn’t true. Plagiarism is taking anyone else’s words or ideas and passing them off as your own. It is literary theft. The word plagiarism comes from Latin meaning to kidnap. If you steal someone else’s words or ideas, you are stealing their “baby,” their creation.

Plagiarism usually comes in two forms. One is intentional, knowingly using someone else’s work, either in part or stealing credit for an entire paper. The second is often un-intentional. Many times students aren’t sure how to give proper credit for the information they have used, or the quotes they include. They get information from an article, book or web site, but don’t include citation notes or a list of sources with their paper. Sometimes, it’s laziness. The instructor does not require citations and sources, so the student doesn’t bother to include them, even though they have gotten ideas or quotes from someone else. 

Please see our companion web site on Citations for more information on the proper way to give credit for the sources you use. Remember, it’s not plagiarism to use sources for a paper. It is only plagiarism if you try to pass the information off as your own. As long as you credit the sources properly, and don’t infringe on copyrighted material, using books, articles and websites is an important part of the research process