Doing Research: Avoiding Plagiarism


Opening Scene: Student working on a laptop computer

Student: Almost done with this paper, let me just copy and paste this little segment and paraphrase it so I don’t get busted for cheating.

Scene Two: Classroom full of students listening to the Instructor at the front of the class.

Instructor: Okay, let me have your attention class. First of all I just want to say what a nice job that you have done on your papers for the most part. Ah, so, I’ll have them graded for you next class period, so, class dismissed. Oh, Ms. Borden I need you to see me during office hours.

Scene Two ends with the students gathering their belongings and exiting the classroom.

Scene Three opens with the Instructor and the Student in the Instructor’s office looking at the student’s paper.

Instructor: You can’t get credit for this paper.

Student: What do you mean? I worked hard on this paper.

Instructor: The problem is you copied someone else’s work and you didn’t give them credit.

Student: Yeah, but I paraphrased.

Instructor: You still need to cite your sources.

Student: But I didn’t know!

End of Scene Three.

Girl: What just happened? Although this student didn’t mean to plagiarize, she learned a hard lesson for not knowing what plagiarism is. One of the goals of this module is to help you understand what is, and is not, plagiarism.

Girl: We will discuss copyrighted and protected works, accidental plagiarism, how to cite your work, how plagiarism is detected, and the consequences of plagiarism. This module will also introduce RefWorks, a great tool that will help you cite your work.

(Here the video pauses for the watcher to answer a question.)

Plagiarism is the act of:

Possible Answers:

  1. using someone else’s work and citing it
  2. using copyrighted materials for your paper
  3. using someone else’s work and not giving them credit
  4. paraphrasing
  5. unsure


Girl: Let’s define plagiarism. I’m going to show a definition of plagiarism on the screen. Please read it with me. When I’m finished reading it, take a moment to re-read it to yourself. When you feel that you know what the definition of plagiarism is, click on the continue button.

Girl (reading the definition on screen): “Plagiarism is the act of taking someone else’s work and using it as your own without crediting or citing the original source.”

(Here the watcher is prompted to click “Continue” to continue the video. After clicking “Continue”, the watcher is presented with another question.

When do you have to cite your sources?

Possible Answers:

  1. when what you are writing about is your own experience
  2. when what you are writing about is common knowledge
  3. when you are writing about someone else’s idea
  4. unsure 


Scene opens with a guy and a girl sitting in a library.           

Guy: So plagiarism is using someone else’s words, sentences, images, music, without giving them credit, and as we’ll see later, it also includes paraphrasing somebody else’s ideas.

Girl: A good rule to remember is: when in doubt, cite.

Guy: So do I have to cite everything?

Girl: Well, you don’t have to worry about things like common knowledge, stuff like in 1865 when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, Andrew Johnson was elected the 17th president of the United States.

Guy: Right, or William Shakespeare was born in 1564. This is common knowledge.

Girl: Let’s sum it up. When writing a paper you usually use information from three areas. First, your own thoughts, opinions and experiences.

Guy: And these are yours, so you don’t have to cite those.

Girl: Right. Second, other people’s thoughts, opinions and experiences.

Guy: Always cite those, give credit.

Girl: Right. And third, common knowledge. As mentioned earlier, this module will discuss what copyright is. If you can read it, see it, hear it, and/or touch it, it could be copyrighted.

Guy: Absolutely. Now, explain this paraphrasing.

Girl: Paraphrasing is putting someone else’s words and ideas into your own words.

Guy: Like copying a paragraph from a journal article and re-writing it. Oh, I may have been guilty of that a time or two.

Girl: Yeah, that’s right. When in doubt, cite. That’s why we’re also going to show you how to cite, and discuss some of the most used citation formats.

Guy: Plus a really cool tool called RefWorks that will help you cite your work. So let’s get started.

End of scene.

(Here the video pauses for another question.)

Which of the following is copyright infringement?

Possible Answers:

  1. photocopying a college textbook.
  2. burning a CD that you did not own
  3. downloading music or movies that you do not pay for
  4. buying and submitting papers you do not write
  5. all of the above
  6. unsure


A cartoon slide show plays in the background.

Girl: Plagiarism is stealing, although it’s not always intentional, it is still stealing. Copying and pasting someone else’s text without providing credit, paraphrasing someone else’s ideas without giving credit, CD’s that you burn but don’t own, music or movies that you download but don’t pay for, textbooks that you copy and use but don’t buy, papers you buy and submit at yours even though you didn’t do them, these are all theft.

Girl: If you take someone else’s work and either use it without paying for it or pretend that it’s your property or your product, then you are plagiarizing.

Guy: Copyright is a form of protection that covers published and unpublished literary, scientific and artistic works. Remember, if you can read it, see it, hear it, and/or touch it, it’s probably copyrighted.

Guy: The whole idea of copyright is to give authors or creators the exclusive right to reproduce, perform, and distribute their work. If you copy a classmates textbook on a photocopier or don’t give proper credit to an author whose work you use, or share copies of music files you download, you’re guilty of copyright infringement, and the consequences can be severe.

(Scene ends with another question.)

Accidental Plagiarism is:

Possible Answers:

  1. acceptable one time, as long as it was only an accident
  2. okay if you paraphrased or changed the text a bit
  3. always unacceptable
  4. unsure


Scene One opens with the Instructor and the Student looking at the Student’s paper in the Instructor’s office.

Instructor: Alright, so look, this is where I found this on the web. Now granted, you didn’t quote the person word for word, but you still put someone else’s words and ideas into your own words without giving them credit. Now remember plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s work as your own without crediting the original source. And all you had to do was just tell me where it came from.

Student: I thought it was okay to paraphrase. Everyone does it.

Instructor: Yeah, some of the most common mistakes made when writing a research paper are paraphrasing incorrectly and failing to give the original author credit. Even if you are using your own words, the ideas are still taken from someone else’s and must be cited. And most of the time the original author makes their entire livelihood from these things, and that’s why they copyright their works. So, I mean, to protect their published and unpublished literary, scientific, and artistic works. So, when in doubt, cite.

Student: You’re right, I guess I don’t know how to cite, where can I learn?

Scene One ends.

Scene Two opens with the camera focused in on a Guy standing on a balcony in the library.

Guy: Remember, when in doubt, cite. It’s so easy to avoid trouble just by citing your sources. Understanding how to properly credit your resources using a standardized format will help you avoid plagiarism. Now at the end of this module we have some excellent guidelines that will help teach you how to cite your sources using a standardized format.

(Here the video pauses for another question.)

When citing my resources it is important that I:

Possible Answers:

  1. use a standard citation format assigned by your professor
  2. include only the title and year
  3. use footnotes, in-text citations, and italics for every citation
  4. all of the above
  5. unsure



A cartoon slide show plays in the background.

Guy: You’ll need to get with your professor and talk about what style or citation format is required for your assignment. Regardless of which style you use, you are usually required to put your citations in a bibliography, a works cited list, or list of references. We’ll be looking at some examples that will help you identify and format the parts of the citation. Keep in mind that you can find more information about citation and citation formats at the end of this module.

Scene changes from cartoon slide show to a citation example.

Girl: So, what do I need to include in my citations?

Guy: Most citations contain the title, the author or authors, and a date. Other information is included depending on the resource. For example, a book citation will also include the place of publication, publisher, and copyright date, while a journal citation will include the journal name, volume and issue, page range, and number of pages. Here are some examples using a couple of different citation formats.

Screen shows different types of formatting styles, such as MLA and APA, showing book and journal citations using each format.

Guy: The Modern Language Association, or MLA. The American Psychological Association, or APA.

Girl: But my professor said that I needed to use footnotes. What are footnotes?

Guy: Your professor may ask for you to use one of several methods of citing throughout your paper, such as footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical references. These actual formats vary according to the style you’re required to use.

Girl: You know, citing resources is not just the legal and ethical way to use someone else’s ideas and works, but it also helps your readers locate the sources you used.

Guy: And it provides evidence for your arguments, gives credibility to your work, and even demonstrates to your professor that you have reviewed a variety of resources in your research.

(Here the video pauses for another question.)

RefWorks can help you:

Possible Answers:

  1. organize your research
  2. only when you are using the MLA citation style
  3.  import references from many different data sources
  4. create bibliographies using several different citation styles
  5. all of the above
  6. a, c, d
  7. unsure


Greg: Hi, I’m Greg Hardin, reference librarian. I’m here today to talk to you about RefWorks. RefWorks is a web based citation manager. It can help you organize your research, include citations while you write your paper, import references from many different data sources, and create bibliographies using several citation styles like APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, and more.

The screen shows several examples of converting journal articles and catalogue records into bibliographic records by using RefWorks.

Greg: Being web based means there is no software to download and update, and you can access your personal account from any computer connected to the internet. RefWorks simplifies the process of documenting the sources in your paper by turning this (screen shows a book citation in the library catalog), into this (screen shows a properly formatted citation in a paper). Or this (screen shows a journal citation in a database), into this (screen shows a properly formatted citation in a paper). Another great feature of RefWorks is Write-N-Cite. Write-N-Cite will help you insert citation information within the text of your paper, you know, internal citations.

Screen shows the steps on how to access RefWorks.

Greg: So how can you get RefWorks? From the TWU library homepage choose RefWorks or citing and find instructions for setting up your account. A tutorial is available to help you get started and the library offers a variety of training classes. If you have questions, you can get help from a librarian by using the Ask A Librarian link on the TWU library pages. Remember, when the papers are due, RefWorks can help.

(Here the video pauses for another question.)

Which of the following best describes plagiarism?

Possible Answers:

  1. A temporary fix until you have time to re-do the work.
  2. It’s a serious offense and can result in severe penalties.
  3. It’s easy to commit and not easy to detect.
  4. A and B
  5. unsure


Scene opens with Faculty 1.

Faculty 1: It’s about time management. Finally putting together a good paper, making sure you allow time to plan your approach, to do the research that is necessary to make your arguments, to design the paper the way you would like it to be designed, to organize it, and to begin to prepare a testimony to the kind of person you really are.

Scene changes to Faculty 2 writing on a whiteboard.

Faculty 2: Plagiarism is easy to commit and easy to detect, but it’s also easy to avoid. Just be sure to give yourself plenty of time to do your assignments, organize research, and of course always cite your sources.

Scene changes to Faculty 3.

Faculty 3: You may think you’re cutting and pasting your way to an easy A, but you could be plagiarizing yourself into an F. Cutting and pasting is very easy to do, however, even unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism.

Scene changes back to Faculty 1.

Faculty 1: I’ve got a flash for you. Faculty members are smart people who are using these new technologies to read your papers. We’re using tools like, iThenticate, Safe Assignment, to see whether or not you have learned the rules for managing documentation, whether you know how to design your papers so they can be more convincing, and whether or not you have used the citation formats properly.

Scene changes to Faculty 4 sitting behind a computer.

Faculty 4: Not all people think it’s flattering when you use their words, especially when you paraphrase without giving them credit. If you paraphrase you must cite the source.

Scene changes to Dr. Richard Nicholas, Vice President of Student Life.

Dr. Nicholas: I’m Richard Nicholas, I’m Vice President for Student Life. Plagiarism is a serious offense. Plagiarism occurs when a student obtains portions or elements of someone else’s work, including materials prepared by another person or agency and presents those ideas or words as his or her own academic work.

Dr. Nicholas: The intentional or un-intentional use by paraphrase or direct quotation of the published work of another person without full and clear acknowledgement shall constitute plagiarism. Students are responsible for following the guidelines of the appropriate course or discipline. Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty.

Dr. Nicholas: Students who violate university rules on academic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary penalties including the possibility of a failing grade, failure or removal from a course, disciplinary probation, and/or dismissal from the university. You should refer to your student handbook for the official TWU policy. And remember, when in doubt, cite.


Scene opens with Guy and Girl standing in front of a fountain.

Girl: Those consequences sounded pretty severe.

Guy: They sure do, we certainly have to be careful.

Girl: That’s for sure. So what all did you learn today?

Guy: Well, I learned that plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s music, sentences, or idea’s and using them as if they were your own without citing the original resource. Do you remember what copyright is?

Girl: Sure do. Copyright is a form of protection that covers published and unpublished literary, scientific, and artistic works. Remember, if you can read it, see it, hear it, and/or touch it, it’s probably copyrighted.

Guy: That’s right. So what’s a good rule of thumb to follow?

Girl: When in doubt…

Together: Cite.

End of video. Screen show’s the option to take the test. The test can be taken at the following URL: