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Plagiarism: How to Avoid it : Home

Avoiding Plagiarism

From Michener’s Academic Integrity Policy and Procedure:

Plagiarism is the portrayal, claiming or use of another person’s work or ideas (sentence, thought, paragraph, intellectual property, data, drawings or images) without specific reference. In the academic world this is considered to be theft. It is dishonest and irresponsible and will result in serious consequences.

Plagiarism is taking, using, and submitting the thoughts, writings, etc., of another person as your own. If a concept or theory is “common knowledge” in the field, e.g., one of the symptoms of measles is a rash, you do not need to provide a reference; if it is not common knowledge or if you are not sure, provide a reference. Examples of concepts that require a reference include discoveries, theories, controversies and opinions. Don’t forget to acknowledge the source of illustrations, charts, and tables of data. For more information, consult the University of Toronto’s How Not to Plagiarize.

The way to avoid plagiarism is to give credit to the sources you have used in your research. We call this process referencing because you are creating a reference in your paper to each of the sources you have used. At Michener, the commonly used referencing styles are Vancouver and APA. Check with your Professor to see which style they would prefer you to use, and then read the appropriate box below.

Why Reference?

There are several reasons for including a reference:

  • It is ethical to credit others for their contributions to your writing;
  • It may be a legal obligation in the case of copyright;
  • To protect you in the case of questionable allegations;
  • To reflect your prior reading effort;
  • To show the sequence of events involved in the resolution of a scientific problem, as part of your argument.

Did I Plagiarize?

Did I Plagiarize? The Types and Severity of Plagiarism Violations infographic

Not sure whether what you've done is plagiarism? Check out this handy graphic (click to make it bigger).

Plagiarism can range in severity from low, where one is careless with one's citations, to high, where one takes full credit for the work of others with no attempt to cite whatsoever. The graphic above describes the different ways in which one can plagiarize and the relative severity of each.

One helpful tool for avoiding plagiarism is citation software such as Zotero. For information on using Zotero, visit the LRC's Zotero guide.

Vancouver Style

For full details, visit the LRC's Vancouver Style guide.

The Vancouver Style is formally known as Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals (ICMJE Recommendations). It was developed in Vancouver in 1978 by editors of medical journals and well over 1,000 medical journals (including ICMJE members BMJ, CMAJ, JAMA & NEJM) use this style.

APA Style

For full details, visit the LRC's APA Style guide.

The APA style consists of rules and conventions for formatting term papers, journal articles, books, etc., in the behavioural and social sciences. This user guide explains how to cite references in APA style, both within the text of a paper and in a reference list, and gives examples of commonly used types of references.


It is often necessary to reduce a concept or theory into a few sentences. While the words may be your own, the concepts or theories are not; and you must give credit to your sources. The use of paraphrasing, rather than direct quotes, is often preferred because it helps with creating flow in building logical arguments.

Poor Paraphrasing: The Michener Academic Integrity Policy and Procedure says that, though assignments and tests are meant to evaluate a student's personal knowledge of a topic, sometimes they need to use resources created by others.(3)

Good Paraphrasing: In their Academic Integrity Policy and Procedure, Michener indicates that students will often need to reference others' work as part of their own evaluations.(3)

All paraphrased ideas must be accompanied by the appropriate citation according to the style guide you are using.


Direct quotations are to be used very sparingly. The chief drawback is that the text becomes choppy and difficult to read. Using the author’s own words in a direct quote is usually justified for only the following reasons:

  • Credibility, an argument gains credibility by quoting a known authority;
  • Power, an argument gains power by the skillful weaving-in of knowledge into the text;
  • Eloquence, an argument gains eloquence by using a direct quote that illuminates the concept.

Poor Quotation: Tests and exams are "intended to establish the knowledge level of the student".(3)

Good Quotation: Referencing one's sources correctly is essential in the academic world, as Michener notes that doing so "acknowledges ownership and shows respect for the work of others, allows the reader to locate the source of information and demonstrates a student’s ability to research, digest, apply and transfer knowledge".(3)

All direct quotations must be accompanied by the appropriate citation according to the style guide you are using.

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Michener Institute of Education at UHN, 2018.