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Academic Integrity & Avoiding Plagiarism

What needs to be cited?

In short, just about everything. Every source you use either in PRINT or in ELECTRONIC format must be cited.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • books (fiction, literature, poetry, etc.)
  • journal or magazine articles
  • encyclopedias, dictionaries
  • a piece of art work (paintings, drawings)
  • pictures, comics, graphics
  • videos
  • web pages
  • music or song lyrics
  • advertisements
  • speeches, personal communications
  • e-mail messages, blogs, pod casts
  • even anonymous works must be cited

Sometimes people believe that if information is freely available on the Internet or is not protected by copyright, it does not need to be cited.
This is simply not true.

How to cite correctly

Direct quotations

A direct quotation occurs when you are using the spoken or written words of someone else exactly. In these cases you will put quotation marks around the quoted text:

"I must be cruel only to be kind; Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind" (Shakespeare).

Whether you plan to use direct quotations in an assignment or not, try this technique:

  • Whenever you take notes (from a book, article, web site, film, etc.) practice putting quotation marks around any direct quotes immediately.
  • Indicate where the quote came from with AUTHOR, DATE, PAGE.

Not only will this save you a lot of time once you actually start writing your paper and preparing the bibliography/reference list, but it will help prevent you from accidentally plagiarizing. If you don't use the quotations marks immediately it is possible you will forget which words are your own, and which belong to another author.

Here's an example of a quote you might write down for future use in an assignment. (This is APA style.)

"There is probably no other time throughout a semester when negative emotions are at their peak in students' minds and bodies as in the first half hour of an exam”(Berk, 2000, p. 151).

With this information, you can easily locate the quote again, you won't forget that someone else said it, and you can try to find a good spot for it in your paper.

The reference list would include the full reference as follows:

Berk, R.A. (2000). Does humor in course tests reduce anxiety and improve performance? College Teaching 48(4),151-159.

Indirect quotations/Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing involves someone else's ideas or words, putting them into your own words, and crediting the source. Here is a good method for proper paraphrasing:

  1. Re-read the text, making notes of the main points.
  2. Cover up the text and your notes and rewrite your notes from memory in your own words.
  3. When you begin to write your summary restate the main idea at the beginning and indicate where your information is from.
  4. Identify other main themes or points that the original author discussed. (But don't feel you have to include everything an author said - only use the parts that strengthen your paper.)
  5. Change the order of the points if necessary to make the organization of your paper more logical.
  6. Re-read your work and the original work to ensure that you have included all the important information and also to ensure you have not paraphrased too closely to the original wording.


Original passage:

"But life is never all hardship for a growing boy. The surrounding country was wild enough for any imaginative youngster to find adventure in” (Bryce, 1997, p. 25).

Unacceptable paraphrase:

For a growing boy, life is never all hardship. For anyone with imagination, the countryside was wild enough for adventures.

  • wording is too close to original
  • no citation provided

Acceptable paraphrase:

According to Robert Bryce (1997), in a countryside like the one Cook grew up in, an adventurous boy could compensate for life's hardships.

  • wording incorporates other ideas
  • idea attributed to original author

Remember, simply changing some words but keeping the original structure of the passage is NOT acceptable paraphrasing; the paraphrase must be entirely in your own words!

Sources and image credits
Example is modified from:

In-text citations

In-text citations are used in the body of your essay or paper when you refer to information from an outside source. This can include a general reference to a theory, a direct quotation, etc. Different citation guides will direct you to make your in-text citations in different ways, so make sure you are following the guide for the citation style you are expected to use.


Example 1 (paraphrasing)

According to Arthur and Jackson (2020), much of the research…


Example 2 (direct quotation):

Recent studies “[reflect] the growing need to improve the visibility of technical services” (Arthur & Jackson, 2020).

Bibliography, Works Cited, and Reference Lists

Lists of references will appear at the end of your work and contain the total bibliographic information for the resources you referred to in your work. This is what allows others who read your work to determine where your facts and ideas came from and to follow and verify your process. It also helps those who may write about a similar topic or build on your topic to see what sort of sources you used. You may be required to include every work you have consulted, or just the ones with in-text citations. 

Sample Works Cited Page in APA style:

What is Common Knowledge?

Common knowledge is knowledge that is known and accepted as true by a majority of people, or by a specific group of people (such as a national or cultural group, or by members of a discipline). If something is considered common knowledge, it does not need to be cited.

For example:

  • There are 365 days in a year
  • Canada has 10 provinces and 3 territories.
  • Water freezes at 0 degrees Celcius

However, it's important to understand what is considered common knowledge may vary from person to person, and from discipline to discipline. According to University College Dublin:

"Information that needs to be cited includes research undertaken by others, statistics, and ideas, interpretations or analyses of primary research or the work of others. Specific dates, numbers, or facts that the reader would not know unless [they] had done the research also need to be cited."

When determining if something is common knowledge or not, ask yourself:

  1. Who is my audience?
  2. What can I assume they already know? 
  3. Will I be asked where I obtained my information?

The purpose of citation is to acknowledge your sources of information, to avoid plagiarizing, and to allow your readers to follow your work and verify your claims. Therefore, if something is widely known and easily verified by your audience, it is usually considered common knowledge.

If you are unsure if something qualifies as common knowledge or not, you can always ask your professors. And remember, when in doubt, it is best to cite it. 


Sources and image credits

Brennecke, P. (2012). Academic intregrity at MIT: A handbook for students [eHandbook]. Massachusetts Institute of


Common Knowledge by Leabharlann University College Dublin Library used under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.