Skip to main content

Avoiding Plagiarism: Academic Honesty

This guide will provide strategies to recognizing and avoiding plagiarism.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Recognize and overcome common pitfalls during the research and writing process that might lead to unintentionally appropriating someone else's words and ideas. 

OWL: Safe Practices
OWL: Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing
Purdue’s much respected Online Writing Lab (OWL), offers  a wealth of clear information about avoiding plagiarism and correctly using and formatting citations. These two pages may be particularly helpful in avoiding unintentional plagiarism.

“Academic Honesty” - Farnham Writers' Center
In addition to tutoring and other services, the Farnham’s Writers’ Center offers this advice about avoiding academic dishonesty.

Librarians, Writing Center Tutors, and Faculty can help! Please don't hesitate to contact us.

Librarian Subject Specialists
Colby Libraries "Ask Us"

Scroll down to see Colby's statement on academic honesty.

 Photo Credit:  "Found Blur Motion" by ilouque found on Flickr with Creative Commons license 2.0. Some Rights Reserved.

Common Forms of Plagiarism

Most of these examples are taken from Gordon Harvey's Writing with Sources (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998), pp.23-28.

  • Uncited data or information
    If something is common knowledge ("Many songbirds migrate."), you don't need to cite your source. If it is the result of someone else's work or research ("XX% of North American songbirds migrate."), you must cite the source in which you found the data.
  • Uncredited text
    Cutting and pasting text is plagiarism unless you put the text in quotation marks and correctly cite the source.
    Uncredited ideas
    Taking an idea from a source and rewording it entirely is still plagiarism if you don't cite the source.
    Distinctive words or phrases
    One guideline says using four or more words in a row from another source requires quotation marks and a citation to that source. Another says even a single word, if distinctive, can be considered plagiarism if not credited.
  • Unacknowledged organizing structure
    If you summarize someone's argument point by point in your notes and then use those points in the same sequence in your writing without citing the source, you are plagiarizing.
    Ignoring, misrepresenting, or inventing material
    Don't become so enamored of your own theories that you must falsify your evidence to support them.
    Paper mills
    Their quality is generally so poor, so off topic, and so obvious to faculty, why waste your time -- and your education?
    Inappropriate collaboration
    Ask your professors for guidelines any time they require collaboration, and always acknowledge all collaborators in your paper.
    Using one paper for two or more classes
    This should never be done without the explicit permission of all the involved instructors, and is a questionable choice at best.
  • Contributing to plagiarism by others
    Letting someone else copy your work or doing work for someone else both constitute intellectual dishonesty.

Colby's Academic Honesty Policy

"Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are serious offenses. For the first offense, the instructor will report the case to the Coordinator of Academic Integrity, who may impose a sanction up to and including suspension or expulsion. This report becomes part of the student's confidential file and is destroyed six years after graduation or the last date of attendance. A second offense automatically leads to suspension or expulsion. Students may not withdraw passing from a course in which they have been found guilty of academic dishonesty. If a student does not accept responsibility for the charge of academic dishonesty, an investigation will be initiated by the Academic Honesty Review Board. The decision of the board shall be final and binding.

The College also views misrepresentations to faculty within the context of a course as a form of academic dishonesty. Students lying to or otherwise deceiving faculty are subject to dismissal from the course with a mark of F and possible additional disciplinary action.

Student accountability for academic dishonesty extends beyond the end of a semester and even after graduation. If Colby determines following the completion of a course or after the awarding of a Colby degree that academic dishonesty has occurred, the College may change the student's grade in the course, issue a failing grade, and rescind credit for the course and/or revoke the Colby degree.

Without the approval of all the instructors involved, registration for two or more courses scheduled to meet concurrently is a form of academic dishonesty."

2015-2016 Colby College Catalogue p. 27

"Plagiarism 2.0: Information Ethics in the Digital Age" from Films on Demand

21 minutes (in seven segments) about plagiarism, why it's bad, and how to avoid it.


  1. Talk to faculty about plagiarism.
  2. Bring it up in class.
  3. Ask what form of citation to use (MLA? APA? Chicago? CSE?), as these vary from discipline to discipline.

Research Log

Keep a research log in which you record search strategies (where you searched and what terms you used) and complete citation information for each source consulted.

Databases and catalogs often provide options to save your searches. Also, investigate citation managment tools such as EndNote, Zotero, RefWorks, etc.

Consult this e-Book

Quotation Marks

 Use quotation marks in your notes to make it clear when you are using someone else's words or ideas.

See For Yourself

Don't cite a source you haven't read, heard or viewed.

Online Images

Images from the Web must be properly cited in any presentation, paper or electronic. Consult the Image Resource Guide.

Notes & Drafts

Keep your notes and drafts of your papers for at least a semester after the course.


See if you can explain your ideas to a friend without referring to your notes. If you can't, or if you find yourself using other people's language, you may need to increase your own understanding of the subject before writing the paper or giving the presentation.

Considerations for Scientific Writing

Guidelines for referencing evidence in your assignments.
You should cite:

  1. The source of tables, statistics, diagrams, photographs, and other illustrations.
  2. When describing a theory, model, or practice associated with a particular writer.
  3. To give weight or credibility to an argument supported by you.
  4. When giving emphasis to a theory, model, or practice that has found some agreement or support among commentators.
  5. Direct quotations or definitions.
  6. When paraphrasing another person’s work, if not common knowledge, and that you feel is significant or may be subject to debate.

--Neville: Complete Guide to Referencing & Avoiding Plagiarism

Mathematical Problems

Please check for specific guidelines with your professor. Some examples:     

If a study group works on assigned problems, each member of the group should write up the solution  from scratch on their own without further consultation with the other members of the group. 

The solutions that you hand in must be your own work, not copied from someone else.  You should independently write mathematical solutions to the problems to be sure you understand the general principles as well as the specific answer.

Colby College on Twitter Colby College on Facebook Colby College on YouTube Colby College on Vimeo Colby College RSS Feed Search Previous Next