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The Easy Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism With Danielle Holmes

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.


  • In-text: (Larson 58)

  • Reference page: Larson, Gary. The Far Side Gallery 5. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1995.

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.


  • In-text: (“Hurricane”)

  • Reference page: “Hurricane.” National Geographic Kids, 14 June 2019,