How to avoid plagiarism

The purpose of this section is to explain the meaning of plagiarism and to provide guidance about how to avoid it. (See the preceding section, Formatting Essays Properly, for detailed information about proper footnotes and bibliographies.)


1. Basic definition: “to present borrowed thoughts as original.”

a. Plagiarism is a serious form of academic dishonesty that “gives the impression that you have written or thought something that you have in fact borrowed from someone else” (MLA Handbook).

b. The most blatant forms of plagiarism are the copying of a paper from the Internet, or the patching together of paragraphs from various books to give the impression of your own research.

c. Using another person’s exact words or ideas that are identifiably someone else’s without giving proper credit is plagiarism because misrepresentation is involved.

d. Using another person’s outline of ideas without giving proper credit is also plagiarism.

2. Plagiarism and culture

a. Key assumption: In North American academic culture, it is expected that students will present their own ideas rather than merely repeat the ideas of others. The ideas of others that you encounter in your research are tools to assist you in thinking through the subject—they help you form your own conclusions about the topic.

b. Simply summarizing the arguments and ideas of other writers is not sufficient, and doing so without providing any documentation about the source of those ideas is considered a serious misrepresentation of your work.

c. There is no shame in acknowledging your sources! In fact, a well-footnoted paper demonstrates to your professor that you engaged in diligent research.

3. Practical tips on preventing plagiarism:

a. Give yourself enough time for research and writing—plagiarism often arises when someone feels pressed to get something done and takes an inappropriate shortcut.

b. Avoid using another scholar’s outline or follow the structure of someone’s published article for your own paper. If you do use any outline or structure from someone else, use a footnote to document this fact.

c. Carefully keep track of sources in your research notes so that you can cite them accurately in your footnotes or endnotes.

d. Don’t quote excessively – keep quotations short. Stringing together a long list of quotations tends to lead into dangerous territory regarding plagiarism.

e. “Use your research notes to add to your own writing rather than merely adding your own words to the research notes” (OBC Manual).

For more info

For more information on academic honesty and plagiarism, see the relevant section of the official Tyndale Seminary course calendar.

The entire How do I write a research paper? section of this website is also available as a PDF.

Disclaimer: Unofficial Academic Information
For official academic information such as degree requirements, course descriptions, prerequisites, and schedules, please refer to the Office of the Registrar website.