Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

GO 255: African Politics: AVOIDING PLAGIARISM

Developed for GO255: African Politics, Fall 2013

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

Librarians, Writing Center Tutors, and Faculty can help!

Scroll down to Colby's statement on academic honesty.



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.


"Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are serious offenses. For the first offense, the instructor may dismiss the offender from the course with a mark of F (which is a permanent entry on the student's academic record) and will report the case to the department chair and the dean of students, who may impose other or additional penalties 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. A student is entitled to appeal charges of academic dishonesty to the Appeals 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."

Colby College Catalogue 2013-2014


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.

There are many opportunities to create your own accounts in online indexes and catalogs that can capture your search strategies and results; please ask if these are not obvious.  Also, investigate using bibliographic managment tools such as EndNote, RefWorks, etc.


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


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


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


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.


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


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

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