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Citation Styles: How to Avoid Plagiarism

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Academic Integrity at Syracuse University

Syracuse University considers plagiarism a serious offense. Refer to the Academic Integrity Office for current University policies and procedures concerning plagiarism and other violations of academic integrity.

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ChatGPT & Other AI Tools

The use of ChatGPT or other AI tools in assignments should be discussed with your instructor. As a general rule, if you are incorporating any information from an AI tool into your research assignments, you must cite the AI tool or the information that the tool is directing you to.

For more information about ChatGPT, please visit the Libraries' ChatGPT Guide.

For faculty/instructors looking for further teaching support and development around ChatGPT, contact CTLE at

For anyone with questions about ChatGPT and academic integrity, contact CLASS at

Official APA, MLA, and Chicago style guidance on how to cite ChatGPT:

Plagiarism Practice Exercise

If you would like to practice identifying plagiarism, then try out this exercise worksheet!

APA Manual, 7th Edition

MLA Handbook, 9th Edition

Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition

What Does it Mean to Plagiarize?

We've all heard the warning to not "plagiarize" and we know it is bad, but what does it exactly mean?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines plagiarizing as "to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own; and to use (another's production) without crediting the source," (Merriam-Webster, 2021).

Research projects require us to find evidence outside of our textbooks to support the arguments we make; however, we cannot just plug in the evidence we find without crediting those who create that evidence. It is important to cite all of the sources you use in your projects - after all, you would not want someone to pass your work off as their own.


Ways to Avoid Plagiarism

You must cite a source when:

  • Including information in your project from other sources and using the author's original ideas, opinions, or research
  • Using an image or other piece of media, such as a tweet, Instragram post, or TikTok video, that you did not create

When including a source in your project, you have two ways of citing:

  • Direct Quoting
  • Paraphrasing

You do not need to cite:

  • Your own thoughts and opinions; however, be careful not to self-plagiarize!
    • Self-Plagiarism is using your own work (previously submitted to another course) and passing it off as original work, even if you make changes to some body paragraphs. If you want to submit a paper you already wrote, you need approval from your professor. 
  • Common knowledge

What is a direct quote?

Direct quoting is when you quote a piece of information word-for-word from the original author's work.

When do I use a direct quote?

  1. If using the exact phrasing by the author is the best way to support the claim you are making.
  2. If you want to disagree with the author's argument.
  3. If you are analyzing the text itself - this is usually used for literary assignments.
  4. If paraphrasing the text does not fully capture the meaning of the text you want to convey.


  • Direct quotations should be used sparingly in your assignments. Your voice is the important part of the assignment and quotes or evidence from others are to support your voice, not the other way around.
  • Do not twist the meaning of the author's original words to fit your narrative. The author's meaning should not change.
  • Be sure your direct quotes flow with the rest of your paper. Use transitions to integrate the quotes; do not have the quote stand alone as its own sentence.

How do I properly cite direct quotations?

You must make sure you are following the appropriate citation style. For ENRM 345, you need to use APA, 7th ed. (please refer to the APA tab on this guide).

In general, when you cite with direct quotations, you must:

  • Place quotation marks around the entire phrase or sentence(s) you are using word-for-word.
  • Always provide an in-text citation! Do not forget this step. Most citations require you to include a page number or paragraph number for direct quotations.
  • Check to see if you need to format your citation as a block quote. Usually block quotes are used for direct quotations that are longer than 3 lines.

What is paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is when you explain what you learned from the article in your own words; however, you are still using someone else's original idea that you cannot pass off as your own.

When paraphrasing correctly, you need to change the wording and sentence structure from the original work, but never the original meaning.

When do you use paraphrasing?

  1. When the wording from the direct quote is not needed to convey the meaning of the information you are using from a source. 
  2. When you want to simplify the meaning of information you are using from a source, such as emphasizing the main point from multiple sentences.
  3. When you want to avoid overusing direct quotations.
  4. When you report numerical data or statistics (preferred for APA papers).

Reminder: Do not twist the meaning of the author's original words to fit your narrative. The author's meaning should not change.

How do I properly cite when I paraphrase my sources?

  • Include an in-text citation appropriate to the citation style you are using. Some citation styles may require you to indicate the page or paragraph number even though you are not directly quoting.

What is common knowledge?

Common knowledge is generally information that the average person would accept as fact and reliable without having to look it up. This is can be a tricky concept when applied to specific fields because what may be common knowledge in the nursing field may not be common in the environmental sciences field.

How do I use common knowledge?

First, you should ask yourself a series of helpful questions:

  • Can I find this information in various sources?
  • Can I find the information in a general resource, such as a dictionary?
  • Can I assume multiple people already know this information?
  • Will I be asked where I obtained this information?

In general, a basic rule to keep in mind when using common knowledge is: If you can find the same information, stated in the exact same way in multiple sources (approximately 3-5 sources), then you can consider it to be common knowledge. 

More information about common knowledge:

Turnitin @ SU Libraries

Turnitin at SU Library is the Library hosted version of Turnitin software whereby students can submit drafts of papers to check for possible instances of plagiarism before they submit final drafts to their course instructors.

Please be aware that Turnitin now includes a feature to detect if any submitted papers are AI generated. This feature will only be viewable for instructors on their course Turninit, and not through the Libraries' version of Turnitin.

Warning: Automated plagiarism detection systems like Turnitin offer some accuracy in comparing the percentage of your content against other sources in order to arrive at a determination at originality. Academic writing that is loaded with text copied from other sources is easily detected using systems like Turnitin. However, such systems do not evaluate the extent and quality of your use of academic citation formats, proper attribution and referencing techniques, etc. Sloppy practice in that area can also lead to accusations of plagiarism. In addition, such automated systems do not cross-check against millions of pages of content held in hundreds of library subscription databases, nor do they cross-check against millions of pages of off-line books, manuscripts, etc. Some have also raised privacy and copyright concerns regarding Turnitin to the extent student papers are saved in the Turnitin system. Papers submitted to Turnitin via the SU Library Turnitin Blackboard space are not saved in the more global Turnitin database.

Plagiarism Overview & Tutorials

Have additional questions about plagiarism and how to avoid it?

Browse the following resources from Purdue OWL to help:

Below is Cornell University's tutorial regarding plagiarism, including written and video explanations, and practice exercises: