When writing an academic or scientific work, plagiarism can be severely punished, even career-ending. A major advantage of avoiding plagiarism is that you leverage your sources by combining your knowledge with your research findings. To create original, high-quality writing, it is crucial that you cite your sources correctly. Yet it may be difficult to understand it, hence, to avoid it.


Summary : 


Defining plagiarism: intellectual property theft


Plagiarism means using someone’s else words or ideas without giving them credit. You cannot present quotations as your own ideas. You cannot use one’s work or statement as yours, even if that person gave you his consent.

Also, intellectual property law requires compliance with citation standards in your essays and academic projects.


Polytechnique Montreal University provides its definition on its page "How to avoid plagiarism":

"Plagiarism involves an act committed intentionally by a person who appropriates the work of another and presents it as their own. The act of using an entire text, excerpt (sentence, paragraph, chapter, etc.), image, etc. without mentioning the author(s) or source(s) is plagiarism. The "plagiarist" is at fault and is criminally liable." 


But why is plagiarism prohibited? What are my incentives to respect copyright? The answer seems simple. This cheating behaviour is an infringement of copyright. You run the risk of hefty penalties due to this infringement

That being said, it is not always easy to know what to cite and how to do it. Unintentional plagiarism exists in many pieces of writing. Is paraphrasing allowed? Can you reuse a paper from the previous year? Should you cite the translation of a scientific fact? ...

To avoid pitfalls, there are tips to prevent similarities from being detected.

Why is plagiarism prohibited?
Avoiding plagiarism: emphasise sources

Avoiding plagiarism: emphasise sources

Properly citing your sources is extremely important in order to avoid plagiarism in your work, whether in an essay, thesis or dissertation. Respect for intellectual integrity and copyright is essential for you to succeed in your studies.

If you want to use someone else’s words or ideas, quote them directly, word-for-word, using quotation marks. You should acknowledge them by putting cited text between quotation marks. Using italics is recommended. 

Example: "Compilatio helps students and Ph.D. candidates develop proper methods for research, citations and referencing so they can submit digital assignments without plagiarism.”.


In addition, you must clearly indicate the source of your quote, either in the text itself or via an endnote. 

Example: "Compilatio helps students and Ph.D. candidates develop proper methods for research, citations and referencing so they can submit digital assignments without plagiarism.”. Quote from Compilatio's website.


Avoiding plagiarism: reference citations 


Cite your references

Translating a text or quote from a foreign language requires careful attention. To avoid plagiarism, you must indicate the source of any quotations. 


Translated quote

Using a translated quote without indicating its source is equivalent to copying and pasting, and this is commonly called: translingual plagiarism.

Example: "Always choose the most difficult way; there you will not meet competitors." Translated quote from Charles de Gaulle

Read Compilatio's article "Translation = plagiarism?"


Generic quote 

Using the words of an author whose work has fallen into the public domain does not require a citation. This also applies to information considered common knowledge

Example of a work that has fallen into the public domain: "Voltaire published his copyrighted work 'Candide' in 1759. He died on May 30, 1778. 'Candide' then fell into the public domain, thus becoming freely accessible on January 1, 1849." According to the Feedbooks website's classification.

Read Compilatio's article "Is it necessary to cite what is common knowledge (known to all)?


Double citation 

You may use an author's words or ideas taken from a document that quotes another document. In this case, you should indicate the primary and secondary sources for the quote.

This is called a double citation, which allows the reader to find the original source of a quote while also highlighting your research and analysis work.

Example of a double citation where the primary source and secondary source are cited: 

  • According to Niskanen, 1971, quoted in Mueller, 2003, p. 364)...
  • According to Brassard (cited in Michaud, 2006), there is no difference [...].

Read Compilatio's article "A primary source cited by a secondary source: Should you cite them both?"


Anonymous quote 

Even when the author of a work is unknown, you should mention them. For this, you just need to add "Anonymous". 

Example of an anonymous quote: "For a colander, having holes is not a defect." -Anonymous

Read Compilatio's article "Should anonymous sources be referenced?"


Referencing graphs and images

When you use photos, images, graphics or any other visual that you have found through a search engine, for example, and that therefore do not belong to you, you must cite them. Any image, chart, figure or graphic design that are not yours must also be acknowledged either by citing the document source underneath the relevant item or within a footnote.

Read Compilatio's article "Why use royalty-free images and graphics during class?"


Paraphrasing or rewording

Restate in your own words an interesting passage in order to be more concise, to support your argument and your writing style. However, you must always reference your source (in-text or via a footnote).

Read Compilatio's article "The power of Paraphrasing"


Quote from a previous academic assignment

If you have recycled a previous assignment, you should mention this so as not to self-plagiarize. 

Example: "The quote taken from your academic work", Quote from my research paper "NAME OF ASSIGNMENT", completed on XXX, as part of ...

Self-plagiarism deprives the reader of their right to access the original sources of knowledge, according to Michelle BERGADAA, a plagiarism specialist. It also makes it harder to differentiate between new writings and what already exists.


Citing the source

For any writing assignment, you must create a bibliography at the end of your document. This will list all your references and must include all the details for your readers to identify and retrieve them easily. While it testifies of your research work and of your respect to author copyrights, this reference list also increases the credibility of your arguments.

You can organise your bibliography however you wish by adopting the citation standard required by your institution or one that best suits you.

Make a point to find out about your institution's regulatory framework in this regard. Opt for a single citation standard throughout your document and for all your cited sources. 


Your bibliography at the end of the document should include all the documents you used during your research. Don't forget to cite the online references, pages and resources used during your research as part of a webography. A webography may constitute all or part of your bibliography, depending on the nature of your sources.

So, what are you waiting for? To enhance your work, opt for an effective bibliography! 

Build an effective bibliography


Using tools: bibliographic management

There are free tools to help you automatically generate your bibliography to save time and reduce errors related to your layout/formatting.


Zotero and Endnote

Zotero is the "personal research assistant" most used by students around the world. Moreover, its interface is very intuitive and easy to use. Zotero allows you to automatically generate your bibliography by organising your references according to your chosen citation standard. Sometimes, free training on how to use Zotero is offered during the year (Also, check with your university library.). 

In contrast, Endnote incorporates your different sources into your bibliography: pdf file, document, website, etc. In addition, EndNote lets you share bibliographic references with your classmates and colleagues, thanks to its digital Coworking space: EndNoteWeb.com  



Did you know that Word processing references your bibliographic sources? To avoid plagiarism, Word applies the specified citation standard. Your sources thus comply with the given instructions, namely to apply the same citation method across your entire academic document. On the other hand, it won't do the research for you ;-) 

You now have at your disposal all the tools necessary to cite your sources correctly and avoid plagiarism, so you can focus more on your research work. 

To recap, plagiarism or intellectual identity theft is a very serious offence and punishable by severe penalties. However, you can avoid plagiarism by adopting a responsible and honest attitude. To add real value to your research assignments, use quotations and paraphrasing. Just remember to mention your sources to respect copyright.

By avoiding plagiarism, you demonstrate your ability to do scholastic research and your knowledge of research methodology. You now know what plagiarism is and how to avoid plagiarism. Be original and unleash your creativity. Happy writing!




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