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PALNI Information Literacy Modules

Set of 14 modules available for use as LMS or LibGuide versions

Module 11: Understanding Plagiarism & Citing Sources


(Ambaum and Barnes, Monday, April 16, 2012) 

“As a student, you will be both using other’s knowledge as well as your own insights to create new scholarship. To do this in a way that meets academic integrity standards, you must acknowledge the part of your work that develops from others’ efforts. You do this by citing the work of others. You plagiarize when you fail to acknowledge the work of others and do not follow appropriate citation guidelines.” (The Ohio State University Libraries, 2015)

Learning Outcomes

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Distinguish between the ethical use of a source and plagiarism.
  • Identify a citation and its basic elements.
  • Explain the purpose and benefits of citations.
  • Produce a citation from a source following a standard format.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using someone else’s words or ideas as though they were your own, and not giving that person credit. The expression of original ideas is considered "intellectual property." To use that property without crediting the author or creator can be a serious offense in both educational and professional environments.

(Vossler, 2016)

Types of Plagiarism

Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional; both are wrong. Intentional plagiarism is when you knowingly use someone else's work and present it as your own.

Students who take incomplete notes, do not understand the research process, or who are generally uninformed about the correct way to gather and cite sources could potentially commit unintentional or accidental plagiarism.

Examples of Plagiarism

  • Writing down information word for word, and neglecting to note the author and source
  • Taking notes without distinguishing between your words and another author’s, and then presenting the ideas as your own
  • Copy/pasting from the Web into your work without crediting the author
  • Using unique phrases or sentences of another author without acknowledgement
  • Buying or acquiring a research paper and turning it in as your own
  • Using a classmate’s work and turning it in as your own

Avoiding Plagiarism

To avoid plagiarism, scholars take accurate notes when gathering original material, use citations in the text of their paper, and create an accurate works cited list/bibliography at the end of their paper.

  1. Make a list of the authors and sources you find while gathering your research.
  2. In your notes, separate the exact words of an author from your own ideas by using quotation marks around the original author’s words.
  3. In the text of your paper, carefully cite each author and source. Each reference in the text of your research paper should link to a full citation the Works Cited list at the end of the research paper.

What are Citations?


Citations are the basic, pertinent information needed to find the full text of a publication, usually the author name, title of book or journal, date and place of publication.


The two most common citation styles are MLA (Modern Language Association, used in humanities) and APA (American Psychological Association, used in sciences).

 All citation styles will include the following information:

  • Author name (including organizations)
  • Title of book or journal (all formats)
  • Date of publication
  • Place of publication (print or online)

When Should I Cite?

You should provide a citation whenever your writing is based on someone else's work. For example:

Summary: When you provide a brief version of what you learned from the source document.

Not everyone who wanders is necessarily lost (Tolkien 182).

Paraphrase: When you restate an idea from the source document using your own words.

In Lord of the Rings, Tolkien speaks about wandering adventurers who may seem lost, but instead are on a personal quest (182).

Quotation: When you use phrases or sentences exactly as they appear in the source document. Note the quotation marks.

J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, “…not all those who wander are lost” (182).


The content for this module is drawn from the following sources:

Cabrillo College. (n.d.). Information literacy course in Canvas.

The Ohio State University Libraries. (2015). Ethical use and citing sources. In Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research. The Ohio State University.

University of Toledo University Libraries. (2020, March 13). Quality teaching & learning: Information literacy in Blackboard.

Vossler, J. (2016, February 25). Avoiding plagiarism. Vimeo.

How do I Cite?

Citation is a two part process: 

  1. In-text:  the information you cite in your paper
  2. Works cited:  the complete information about your sources at the end of your paper

Part 1: In-Text Citation

This is what an in-text citation looks like in an essay:

Part 2: Works Cited

Each time you refer to an author's work in the text of your paper (in-text citation), a corresponding full citation is made at the end of your paper, in the bibliography (called Works Cited in MLA and References in APA).

Works Cited list:

Hanging Indents

Many citation styles require bibliographies to be formatted using a hanging indent, an indent that indents all text except the first line.

Hanging Indents in Microsoft Word

  1. Highlight the citation
  2. From the Home tab, click the bottom-right hand arrow in the Paragraph menu, or right-click the mouse & choose Paragraph
  3. Select the Indents and Spacing Tab
  4. Under Special: change the drop down menu to Hanging
  5. Click OK

Hanging Indents in Google Docs

Option 1

  1. Highlight the citation, then click the Format tab
  2. Select Align & Indent
  3. Select Indentation Options
  4. Use the Special drop-down menu to select "Hanging"

Option 2

  • Use the ruler at the top of the page
  • Drag the arrow and bar together to 0.5, then drag just the bar back to 0


The content for this module was drawn from the following source:
Cabrillo College. (n.d.). Information literacy course in Canvas.


Now it's your turn. Below is a quote from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, page 321.

Paraphrase this quote, provide a in-text citation, and a works cited / bibliography reference. Use the citation style of your choice. Citation information for the book can be found by clicking on the link on the book title.


See the Google doc here for quiz questions and answers. Please note, this document is stored on the PALNI team drive and is only accessible to those who work in a PALNI school.


Creative Commons License

All of the PALNI Information Literacy Modules are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.