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Avoiding Plagiarism

Defining Plagiarism

The UMBC Undergraduate Student Academic Conduct PolicyPDF Document defines plagiarism as:
"knowingly, or by carelessness or negligience, representing as one's own in any academic exercise the words, ideas, works of art or computer-generated information and images of someone else."
Plagiarism can include:
  • turning in a paper written by someone else and claiming that you wrote it;
  • cutting and pasting passages or paragraphs from the Internet to a paper you intend to turn in for a course and failing to cite or footnote the source for those words;
  • paraphrasing the words and ideas of someone else and failing to cite or footnote who originally wrote them;
  • other practices which may be identified by individual professors or instructors in their course syllabi.
Plagiarism constitutes academic misconduct which carries the risk of penalty if identified by UMBC.

Plagiarism and Paraphrasing

Students often have difficulty with paraphrasing which involves restating, in one's own words, an idea originally found in another document along with crediting and citing the original author or source of the idea. When paraphrasing is done incorrectly, it constitutes plagiarism.

Below are examples of both incorrect and correct paraphrasing of the following paragraph:
"Malnutrition was a widespread and increasingly severe problem throughout the least developed parts of the world in the 1970s, and would continue to be serious, occasionally reaching famine condiditons as the millenium approached. Among the cells of the human body most dependent upon a steady source of nutrients are those of the immune system, most of which live, even under ideal conditions, for only days at a time."

Source: Garrett, Laurie. The Coming Plague. New York: Penguin, 1994, p.199.

Inappropriate paraphrase example:
Garrett points out that malnutrition can give microbes an advantage as they spread through the population. Malnutrition continues to be a severe problem throughout the least developed parts of the world. The human immune system contains cells that are dependent upon a steady source of nutrients. These cells may live, even under ideal conditions, for only days at a time.
Notice that while the writer does attribute the ideas to Garrett, the writer does not provide an in-text citation to the original material. Consequently the reader is uncertain what parts of the paragraph are Garrett's and what parts are not. Note also that the writer made only some minor changes to the text and, in some cases, copied the original text directly. Quotation marks are necessary when using text exactly as it appears in the original document.

Appropriate paraphrase example:
Garrett points out that malnutrition can give microbes an advantage as they spread through the population. The human body contains immune cells that help to fight off various diseases. When the body is deprived of nutrients, these immune cells will weaken (Garrett 199).
Notice that the writer attributes the ideas to Garrett, does not directly copy text, presents the topic in his or her own words, and provides an in-text citition at the conclusion of the paragraph (this also indicates to the reader that the ideas between the attribution and the in-text citation do not belong to the writer but to the original author). Paraphrasing examples from: Anson, Chris M. and Robert A. Schwegler. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers. 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 2000, p. 635.

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