Academic Honesty & Plagiarism

What Academic Honesty is, why it matters, and how to build your own academic integrity

Citations Guide

For more complete info on how to cite sources, including video tutorials, see:

...includes APA, MLA and other citation styles, a NoodleTools Citation Generator, and examples of annotated bibliographies, verbal citations and formatted essay examples

Two Parts to Citations - You Need BOTH to Avoid Plagiarizing

Citing sources in the text of your essay paper, presentation or during a speech (quotation, paraphrase, summary, etc.)

When writers present researched ideas, they need to be able to synthesize or mesh another person’s ideas with their own. When bringing in the ideas of others, writers must cite the ideas that supplement their own.

Citation is the cornerstone of academically honest work. Citations within the text of research writing (or speaking) let the reader or audience know that research has been completed.

Citations also allow readers to trace ideas and further explore the topic for themselves.

Writers can choose several ways to include and cite others’ words and ideas in the body of papers: direct quotation, paraphrase, and summary.

Direct quotation...

  • is entire sentences or just phrases. Quantity of material used in a direct quote should be kept to the minimum; taking whole passages of another author’s work might be an indication that writers haven’t read and analyzed the source enough to put it into their own words.
  • is best used when the author’s words are so perfect that it’s not possible to improve them.
  • is most appropriate when the source contains unique terminology.
  • is usually followed by the author’s last name and page number in parentheses or footnote (depending on citation style).


  • rephrases a source/author’s words.
  • usually contains about the same amount of information as the source material.
  • still includes reference to the source author’s last name and sometimes page number (depending on citation style).


  • distills a source’s ideas or concepts with one’s own words.
  • condenses original source material to essential content.
Consult a guide for the specific citation style you are using:

Acknowledging your sources in a References or Works Cited Bibliography: MLA, APA, and other

A list of full citations of sources at the end of your essay or presentation indicates to the reader where outside source information has come from. This list of sources can be called different things based on the citations style used: bibliography, works cited, references, notes, etc.

The most commonly assigned citation styles at GRC are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association). Some instructors give students a choice of citation style, but more likely the assignment will indicate which to use.

For help with formatting citations, see the links below. Note also that the library pays for a citation generator called "NoodleTools" that can help you create citations:

Consult a guide for the specific citation style you are using:

What You Do Not Need to Cite

Understanding common knowledge

Generally, information that is well known or commonly expressed does not need to be cited.

Common knowledge: Information such as definitions from dictionaries, facts from history, well-known concepts, etc. would not need to be cited if the details can easily be confirmed from a variety of sources in addition to a particular source the writer has used.



  • The dictionary definition of antibiotics as “microorganisms that destroy other microorganisms” would not need to be cited.
  • Information about commonly recognized antibiotics such as penicillin used since the 1930s to fight certain diseases would also not need to be cited.

Uncommon knowledge: Specific definitions, obscure historical facts, complex or unusual concepts, information that requires further explanation, etc. would need to be cited. Information from specialized dictionaries or encyclopedias such as a pharmacological or medical text needs to be cited.


  • Very specific or specialized information on antiobiotics, such as bacitracin’s use since the 1940s would need to be cited.

When in doubt, cite: Because so much information is available through the Internet and other electronic sources, the nature of “common” knowledge is sometimes not very clear. If you are not sure how well known the information or concept might be, you should cite the source to help your readers/ audience confirm the content. Remember: any time the exact words and phrasing are copied directly from the source, the content should always be set in quotation marks and cited.

Making the work original

Academic writing requires you to do more than just express your own opinions without support. However, you are also asked to provide original work which is more than just a report that lists information. The challenge of academic writing is to find the balance between the extremes of opinion and list-making.

You can accomplish this by mixing example (evidence) with explanation (“e+e”) in order to claim ownership of intellectual property.

In using the “e+e” technique, the writer is similar to a lawyer in a courtroom. Does a lawyer just present the evidence and then expect the jury members to figure it out on their own? Of course not. Likewise, writers will present an example or some sort of evidence in support of a particular point. Then the writers will explain that example/evidence to apply it to the point being made. In doing this, the writers will identify what they believe the example/evidence means as well as what significance that example/evidence’s meaning has in supporting the point being made. In this way, each writer is able to integrate the “e+e” combination through synthesis and analysis.

As a student writer, you can avoid plagiarism and produce original work by citing the particular source and clearly showing the shift from example to explanation. Often, the change is clear because the citation occurs between the two. In cases where the citation does not appear at the end of the example, student writers can use transition phrasing to show the shift. Expressions such as “what this means …,” “this is important because ….,” or even a simple “in other words …” will signal to the reader that the writers are now providing their original work by expressing their own understanding of the meaning and significance of the example/evidence. In doing so, the writers are claiming the writing as their own intellectual property.

Video Tutorial: Citation Basics - Quick Overview

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Source: "How to Avoid Plagiarism: In 5 Easy Steps" by Steelman Library, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

Learn how plagiarism can be intentional and unintentional and how to avoid plagiarizing by paraphrasing and citing your sources.