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Public Health Graduate Student Resources: Writing Ethically

Write Ethically

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Strategies to Avoid Plagiarism

Take good notes

  • While researching, be sure to take note of important quotes and passages that you think you might use in your paper.
  • Develop a system to indicate if you are capturing a direct quote or if you are paraphrasing.
  • Note the citation information--the author, title, and page number, so that you can easily cite it in your paper.
  • Develop a system of note-taking that works for you.

Cite correctly

  • "Any time you use words from another source, such as a Web site, book, journal article, or even a friend's English paper, you must give proper credit to the source.
  • Even if you don't use someone else's words, but you refer to an idea of concept from another source, you must also give credit.
  • 'Citing your sources' means giving all of the information about your source, such as author, title, and date of publication, so someone else can find that source again." (Penn State, 2012)

Use quotes effectively

  • "If you use someone else's exact words, you need to put those words in quotation marks. Changing a few words here and there is not enough to avoid plagiarism. Either put the exact phrase you are quoting in quotation marks, or rewrite it entirely in your own words.
  • Quoting extensively from another source, even if you do it properly, is not appropriate for a research paper. Use quotations to support your arguments or clarify important points, but create your own argument using your own words." (Penn State, 2012)

Paraphrase correctly

  • "In a paraphrase, you rewrite what someone else has said in your own way. Just as you have a personality that is different from everyone else's, you as a writer have your own voice and style. When you write, even when you are paraphrasing, your writing should sound like it came from you, not from someone else." (Penn State, 2012)


Presentation (16:52)

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Citing: Quoting versus Paraphrasing

Quoting Guidelines

  • You want to be concise; a paraphrase will only be longer and clumsier than the original.
  • You want to be accurate; a paraphrase will distort the meaning of the original.
  • You find the words or style (unique language) of the original memorable, vivid, or powerful and feel that a paraphrase would not convey their meaning. Perhaps you wish to focus your analysis on particular words or ways of expressing things unique to that writer or text and you need to show your reader directly.
  • You wish to add authority to your writing by quoting the words of an expert on the subject. 


Paraphrasing Guidelines

  • Paraphrase when you do not need to quote.
  • A paraphrase should re-present the original in a shorter and possibly clearer form (in the context of your paper).
  • Do not distort the meaning of the original.
  • Put the paraphrase in your own words and do not simply copy the original with a few omissions, substituted words, or "subtle" rearrangements of words.
  • Add a proper citation, according to the style you're using.


Plagiarism Definitions

  • turning in someone else's work as your own.
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit.
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks.
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation.
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit.
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not.


  • paraphrasing a source without acknowledging it.
  • paraphrasing too closely to the original (substituting synonyms for some of the original words), even if you do acknowledge the source.
  • using someone else's idea, argument, interpretation, facts or supporting evidence without indicating your dependence on it (with a footnote or textual citation), even if you modify or elaborate the idea or argument.
  • fabricating a source or quotation to give the appearance of having done required research.