Citing Sources / Plagiarism
What is plagiarism?
Plagiarism is copying someone else’s words or ideas and pretending they are yours.
In some cultures, copying the words of an authority is perfectly
acceptable and, sometimes, even desirable. Students demonstrate their
knowledge of a subject by repeating or explaining the ideas of others.
In Western society, however, much importance is attached to individual
creativity and originality. A person’s written (or spoken) words
are considered intellectual property. If you do not mention the source
of your information, even if the reader already knows where you got it,
this is considered intellectual theft. You can compare this to material
theft, for example, stealing something from a shop. Therefore, you
should always avoid plagiarism at all costs, not in the least because
there are severe consequences for students who are caught plagiarizing.
Deliberate and accidental plagiarism
Some plagiarism is obviously deliberate. For example when you
copy-paste whole sections of a text into your own paper without
mentioning the source or when you hand in a complete paper, written by
someone else, under your own name. Other forms of plagiarism are
accidental. For example, when you jotted down a quote on a piece of
paper and later used this in your work without realizing it was a
direct quotation or when you meant to paraphrase an idea but stayed too
close to the syntax or phrasing of the original.
Examples of deliberate plagiarism:
Examples of accidental plagiarism:
- Submitting work written by or with someone else as if it were your own (also when it is copied or bought from another student).
- Using someone’s exact words without using quotation marks and indicating the source.
- Paraphrasing or summarizing someone else’s idea, theory, or discovery without mentioning the source.
- Handing in your essay for two or more different classes without the lecturer’s permission.
- Forgetting to place a quote in quotation marks.
- Omitting a source because you thought it was unnecessary.
- Paraphrasing or summarizing and forgetting to cite the source.
Still, also accidental plagiarism is an act of plagiarism. The same consequences apply to deliberate and accidental plagiarism.
At times, it may be difficult to determine whether or not a source
should be documented. On the whole, information that is common
knowledge does not have to be documented. Common knowledge constitutes
information that is widely available in encyclopaedias, reference
books, newspapers and magazines. However, this does not include
someone’s opinion in an editorial or a particular person’s
discovery or theory (even if it appears in one of the sources above).
(Kirszner & Mandell, 1999)
- No need to document: Learning a second language can best be done at an early age.
- Should document: Field’s views on the Critical Age for acquiring languages.
So, any information that is not commonly known or accepted, should be
properly referenced. The same goes for research results, graphs,
tables, drawings, statistics, etc. When in doubt, be safe and document
Language plagiarism vs. plagiarism of
There are two different kinds of plagiarism: 1) language
plagiarism and 2) plagiarism of ideas.
1) Language plagiarism
Language plagiarism means you directly take over
the language of your source without proper referencing. So even if you do not
take over the actual idea, but just the language, this is also considered
2) Plagiarism of ideas
- Plagiarism: If you have any questions
about quoting, ask your lecturer well in advance of your paper's due
When you plagiarize ideas, you take somebody’s
ideas or theories without acknowledging the source. Even if you put those ideas
or theories into your own words, you have to document your source.
- Original text: Generically, a "Critical
Period" is considered to be the period of time during which an organism displays
a heightened sensitivity to certain environmental stimuli. (Zhao & Morgan,
- Plagiarism: A Critical Period is a period
in which people are more sensitive to outside stimuli.