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Avoiding Plagiarism

This guide provides resources to define plagiarism and practical tips on how to avoid it.

USNA Faculty Senate


Jan 2018



Plagiarism is the use of the words, information, insights, or ideas of another without crediting that person through proper citation.  Unintentional plagiarism, or sloppy scholarship, is academically unacceptable; intentional plagiarism is dishonorable.  You can avoid plagiarism by fully and openly crediting all sources used.  


1. Give credit where credit is due. Inevitably, you will use other people's discoveries and concepts. Build on them creatively. But do not compromise your honor by failing to acknowledge clearly where your work ends and that of someone else begins.  

2. Provide proper citation for everything taken from others. Such material includes:  interpretations; ideas; wording; insights; factual discoveries; interviews and other personal communications; outlines, argument structures or organizing strategies; charts; tables; and appendices.  Citations must guide the reader clearly and explicitly to the sources used, whether published, unpublished, or electronic. Cite a source each time you borrow from it. A single citation, concluding or followed by extended borrowing, is inadequate and misleading.  Indicate all use of another's words, even if they constitute only part of a sentence, with quotation marks and specific citation. Citations may be footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical references.  

3. Recognize the work of others even if you are not borrowing their words.  Theories, interpretations, assessments, and judgments are all intellectual contributions made by others and must be attributed to them. 

4. Paraphrase properly. Paraphrasing is a vehicle for conveying or explaining a source's ideas and requires a citation to the original source.  A paraphrase captures the source's meaning and tone in your own words and sentence structure. In a paraphrase, the words are yours, but the ideas are not. A paraphrase should not be used to create the impression of originality.  

5. Cite sources in all work submitted for credit.  Your instructor may also require you to identify the contributions of others in drafts you submit only for review.  Ask your instructor for his or her citation requirements and any discipline-specific attribution practices.

6.  Be cautious when using web-based sources, including Internet sites and electronic journals.  There is a common misperception that information found on the Internet does not need to be cited.  Web-based information, even if anonymous, must be appropriately cited.  Do not cut and paste or otherwise take material from websites without proper citation. 

7. Provide a citation when in doubt.  Always err on the side of caution.   

USNA Departments

Statements on plagiarism issued by USNA departments.