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Avoiding Plagiarism

The Department of History views plagiarism as a very serious form of academic dishonesty, for which the penalty may range from a mark of zero on the assignment or test in question, plus an additional mark penalty, to expulsion from the University. Plagiarism involves the improper use of material in essays or other assignments. It can occur through carelessness and negligence when a student is preparing an essay or as a result of intentional deceit. In either case, the penalties for plagiarism are severe. Please note that academic dishonesty includes such practices as submitting the same piece of work in more than one course without the permission of the instructor(s) and the buying or selling of term papers or assignments and submitting them as one’s own.

Fortunately, it is a relatively simple matter to learn the procedures for providing proper references to the material used in essays, thereby avoiding plagiarism. The central point is:

A student should always identify the sources of ideas, words, and phrases that come from someone else.

The aim here is not to discourage students from incorporating the concepts of other people into their own thinking, but to make it clear to the reader from whence this material has come. Generally, it is better to over-identify than to under-identify sources.

Direct Quotations

All phrases or passages of whatever length taken directly (i.e. word for word) from another’s writing must be enclosed in quotation marks and immediately identified with a footnote or endnote. Unless it is clear that quotations closely interspersed in the text are all taken from the same source and the same page, it is necessary to indicate the source of each with a note.

The listing of a source in a bibliography at the end of the paper does not constitute an acceptable citation of the source with respect to the identification of quotations and paraphrases. Even when you make minor modifications to the wording of a quotation (see below), you are still obliged to acknowledge the source properly in a note.

Minor Modifications to Quotations

If you wish to introduce minor changes in the wording of a quotation (for example, in order to insert your own observation or to render the quotation grammatical within the context of the surrounding material), such changes always should be enclosed in square brackets. If you wish to omit some material from the quotation, use ellipsis marks (three dots).

Paraphrases and Ideas

When you substantially reproduce the form and combination of ideas taken from another source (even though you do not repeat the exact words as they were originally expressed), this is called paraphrasing. In other words, you paraphrase when you take an idea from a particular source and put it in your own words. The source of each paraphrase must be identified in a note.

Taking Notes

In order to avoid plagiarism, you need to take notes carefully when doing research for an essay. As you take notes, you should be careful to identify the three major kinds of material being collected: direct quotations, paraphrases, and your own ideas. Uncontested and well-known factual information, such as dates, office-holders, and place-names, may be presented without specific acknowledgement. In order to distinguish between paraphrases and your own ideas, it is helpful to put your own comments in square brackets in your research notes. Always put direct quotations in quotation marks in your research notes in order to avoid confusion. When taking notes, be sure to record the exact book, article, paper, or Web location and page references for both quotations and paraphrases.

Citation Style

As a profession, history uses Chicago Manual of Style for citations. The history department encourages students to use footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography in all research papers. Faculty may assign a guide to CMS or use a reputable online guide in their classes.

We strongly suggest that all history students also consult the American Historical Association's statement on plagiarism.