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Avoid Plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism occurs when a writer includes another person's ideas, writings, or artistic works in his or her own work without giving credit to the other person.  Copy/pasting a sentence from a website into an essay without acknowledging the website is a common example.

The key to all learning is the exploration of the writings, ideas and creations of others. Thus, as a student or researcher, you need to use - but not abuse -  the work of others

On Plagiarism, Citing Sources & Using Quotations - Some Advice from APA & MLA

Penalties for plagiarism

Plagiarism is forbidden in academic institutions, and those who are caught plagiarizing are dealt severe penalties. See the Centennial College Academic Honesty & Plagiarism Policy [PDF].


How do I avoid plagiarism?

When you present your work show that you have:

  • Explored relevant sources (done the research)
  • Understood what you have studied 
  • Developed views of your own, based on your studies.  

So how do you refer to the ideas of others in your work in a way that shows that you know your stuff without making it look as if you are presenting others' ideas as your own?

  • Use the citation style recommended by your instructor or professor (e.g. APA Style or MLA Style).
  • When you use the exact words of another person, place those words in quotation marks and provide a citation that identifies precisely the source.

For example: 

Albert Einstein has said: "Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of  tolerance in the entire population". (1949, p. 20)

  •  When you use the idea of another person, clearly indicate that the idea is his/hers (not yours). Sometimes the source of an idea is unclear - some ideas, for example, you may see as being common knowledge. When in doubt, cite the source where you saw or heard the idea expressed. In this way you are protecting yourself from the charge of plagiarism.

For example:

Legislation by itself cannot ensure freedom of speech. (Einstein, 1948, p. 20)


Cite your sources

Your instructor may ask you to use a standard style to document the sources in your work.  There are many styles to choose from. The most popular document styles at Centennial College are:

Use the style your instructor recommends to document your work.

There are several websites and software programs that can help you to format your reference citations. You input the information about your source, and the program will format the citation according to your chosen style (i.e. APA or MLA).

  • Zotero is a freely available Firefox extension that "helps you collect, manage, and cite your research sources." It integrates with MS Word to format in-text citations as well as bibliographies.
  • Bibliomaker is a simple, easy-to-use program you can download for free to format bibliographies.
  • Son of Citation Machine is an interactive web-based tool that will help format reference citations.
  • EasyBib is a web-based tool that will format bibliographies in MLA style only (APA style is available, but there is a charge for it).

If you use one of these programs, you are advised to check the results for accuracy before you submit your work. 

Why tell your readers what sources you have used?
  • Provide support and credibility for the points you make in your writing
  • Allow your readers an opportunity to evaluate that support by providing them with a clear and accurate road map to your sources
  • Follow the standard requirement for a passing grade


Selected books available at Centennial:


 Websites on plagiarism:


If you plagiarize, you not only run the risk of getting caught, you also short change yourself. When you graduate, it is expected that your student experiences will have increased your knowledge, your ability to think for yourself and to express yourself well. You have paid good money to get those learning experiences. If you plagiarize, you do not develop these skills - or the real confidence that comes with personal achievement.

Ask the Library if you have questions about plagiarism or citing sources. We can help you.