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Citing Sources in Academic Papers

What is plagiarism?

  • According to the MLA Handbook, plagiarism, from the Latin 'plagiarius' "kidnapper", is a form of cheating which occurs when you use someone else's ideas in your own work without properly acknowledging the source (30).
  • Plagiarism may be accidental or deliberate : unfortunately, the consequences are the same. You risk expulsion and/or failure.
  • Example A : Direct Quotation

    (NB : All examples taken from McMaster University, Statement on Academic Ethics )

    "Thomas Hardy was vitally interested in the social conditions and the trends of the late nineteenth century. As Douglas Brown has written, 'the tragedy of the exodus of the agricultural workers from the villages and the countryside, and what tragedy represents, forms one of Hardy's continual themes ' (36-39). Tess of the d'Urvervilles is an obvious example of Hardy's social concern."

    A direct quotation is an acceptable way of including another writer's work in your own paper. Later, the reference is included in your bibliography :

    Brown, Douglas. Thomas Hardy. London, 1954. 36 - 39

    Example B : Indirect Reference or Paraphrasing

    "Thomas Hardy was aware of the changes taking place in the England of his day, and his writings reflect his interest in these changes. As a countryman he was particularly concerned about the migration of the agricultural workers from the countryside into the industrial towns, and Douglas Brown has argued that this is one of the most significant themes in Hardy's work (36 - 39). Tess if the d'Urbervilles is obviously relevant in this connection."

    This is acceptable as the writer has included a reference to acknowledge that this idea came from Brown's writing.

    Example C : Plagiarism

    "Thomas Hardy was concerned about the social conditions of his time. The tragedy of the exodus of the agricultural workers from the villages and the countryside, and what that tragedy represents, forms one of Hardy's continual themes. Tess is a good example."

    This is plagiarism because the writer is using Douglas Brown's exact words and ideas without referring to him. Even if Brown's book is included in the bibliography, this part of the essay would be considered plagiarism because there is no direct reference to Brown in this passage.

    Tips on Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Try to use your own words and thoughts as much as possible
  • Take careful notes. Each time you copy a quote or note information from any source, print or electronic, be sure to note the author, title and page number. Keep separate notes on your own thoughts or analysis of the text.
  • When you are paraphrasing someone else's work, use lead-in phrases such as "According to Brown, ....." or "As Brown has written, ......"
  • Be sure to reference any new idea that you have come across as a result of your research, (that is not general knowledge).
  • Refer to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (available in the E.A.B.J.M. Library (808 MLA)), for more details on plagiarism and on bibliographies.
  • Bibliography Examples (MLA style)

  • A Book
    Klein, Naomi. No Logo. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada
  • A Newspaper Article
    Knowlton, Brian. "North Korea arms pact is now dead, Powell says." International Herald Tribune 21 Oct. 2002: 1.
  • An Anonymous Article
    "French Defence policy: Rearming" The Economist 19 Oct. 2002: 32
  • Citing a Web Page

    1. Name of the creator (if given) e.g. S. Burchill
    2. Title of the site, underlined, or a description such as Home Page.
    3. Date of the last update, if given.
    4. The names of any organisation associated with the site e.g. E.A.B.J.M.
    5. The date you accessed the site.
    6. The URL (web address)

    For example: S. Burchill. The Open Door Web Site. 21 Oct. 2016.   (

    Further Information

    Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 5th edition. New York: MLA, 1999

    Proctor, Margaret. How Not to Plagiarize. 4 Sept. 2002. University of Toronto. 23 Oct. 2002


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