Your middle schooler or high schooler is now writing papers for classes. The idea of filing full pages of white space can be intimidating, challenging, and overwhelming. While some students may lean on a peer, teacher, tutor, or parent for help, other overwhelmed students may choose what they see as an easier route: buying a paper online, paying a friend to write, or copy+pasting content from an online article or Wikipedia entry. And if they get caught, all of these methods will be labeled as cheating and plagiarism. Unfortunately, teachers who don’t teach basic ways to attribute quotes or ideas may lead to students being accused of plagiarism when they don’t know how to give credit where credit is due.
So, next time your student needs to write a paper, send them this link or pull it up to help make sure they don’t come home with an F (or suspension) for plagiarism.
What is plagiarism?
Plagiarism is not giving credit for content, whether it’s words, images, video, or ideas, to the creator or purposefully passing off someone’s ideas as your own. It’s theft. And unfortunately for students, even accidental plagiarism is still plagiarism.
Avoiding plagiarism means needing to know how to cite sources and how to summarize in your own words.
Citing Sources to Avoid Plagiarism
Quick rules for citing sources on social media or in casual writing:
Always put the quotation in quotes. This is the first signal to your reader that it’s not your words.
After the quotation, include the name of the person who wrote or said it. Even better, include the name of the book, speech, or article it came from.
Make sure the quote is word-for-word the same.
If you’re writing online, and can include a link, link to the original article or book.
For photos, make sure to name the photographer.
No citation: You know, we go high when they go low.
Better citation: You know, it’s like Michelle Obama says, “When they go low, we go high.”
Fantastic citation: “You know, it’s like Michelle Obama said in her 2016 speech in Philadelphia, PA, “When they go low, we go high.”
Alternate fantastic citation: “When they go low, we go high.” -Michelle Obama, at 2016 speech given in Philadelphia, PA
Citing Sources in a Paper For School
First, find out what style guide your teacher wants you to use; it’s probably MLA. Then look up how to cite sources for that style guide. If your teacher or textbook doesn’t have examples, check out the Purdue OWL. They have guides and examples for all the major styles.
How to cite a quote from a single author book:
For both of these, you’ll need the full title of the book, the author’s name, the page number, and the year it was published, and the publisher.
Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)
Footnote or Endnote: 1. Larson, Gary, The Far Side Gallery 5 (Kansas City, KS: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1995), 58.
Reference page: Larson, Gary, The Far Side Gallery 5. Kansas City, KS: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1995.
How to cite a quote from an article or web page:
For both of these, you’ll need the name of the website, the title of the webpage, the author’s name, and when it was written.
Footnote or endnote: 2. “Hurricane,” National Geographic Kids, 14 June 2019 and 2 September 2019, https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/science/hurricane/.
Reference Page: “Hurricane.” National Geographic Kids, June 14, 2019. https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/science/hurricane/.
How to summarize without plagiarizing
You did your research and now you need to write a paper. Your teacher expects to hear your thoughts mixed in with facts that support your argument. But last time, your teacher told you it sounded like you copied the book you were reading. Try these tips:
Don’t write your paper right after you read the article or book. The author’s words are going to be stuck in your mind. You want your own words
If you’re explaining something the author said, even when you summarize, start by giving them credit.
After you write summaries, go back and check your writing against the original source. Make sure they’re not too similar.
Ex. Original source: Interested in extreme weather events? Then a hurricane—a swirling mass of wind, rain, thunder, and chaos—will intrigue you. Hurricanes begin over tropical and subtropical ocean water. They start when warm water, moist air, and strong winds collide and create a rotating bundle of thunderstorms and clouds. A hurricane might last a few hours or several days.
Plagiarized: Do you like extreme weather? Then, hurricanes, which are made up of wind, rain, thunder, and craziness, will interest you. They start over tropical and subtropical ocean water. When the water is warm, the air is moist, and winds are strong, they start a rotating thunderstorm. They can last hours or days.
Summarized: In the National Geographic Kids article explaining hurricanes, they explain what hurricanes are made of and how they start. The article says hurricanes are created when the weather elements of wind, rain, and thunder clouds are affected by water and air temperature. To make a thunderstorm become a hurricane, warm water and moist air have to come together and start rotating. There are lots of factors that decide how long a hurricane will last.
Focus on your argument or point, instead of just the information.
When it doubt, directly quote it and cite it!
You’d be upset if someone used your hard work without giving you credit. You’d feel like they stole your idea and time. There’s no difference between that and not giving someone credit in a paper. And, no one wants an F or a suspension; take the time and cite your work.
About the Author:
Danielle is the owner of The Observers Table, a company providing editing, copywriting, and wordsmithing services for businesses, bloggers, and authors. Visit https://theobserverstableediting.com/ to learn more.