Skip to Main Content


Interactive, graded tutorial and other tips on avoiding plagiarism

Plagiarism FAQs

Is it still plagiarism if I didn’t unintentionally copy someone else’s work; I didn’t mean to?

Technically, yes, this is still a form of plagiarism which is why it’s important to double check your work as well as understand what plagiarism includes.

If I just change some words, is that plagiarizing? Do I need to cite?

Yes, this is plagiarism if you do not cite your source. By simply changing some of the words to some synonyms, you are still using that sources ideas, not ideas that you came up with on your own. 

If I include a list of reference I used, am I covered?

This is a start, but depending on what style of writing you are using (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) you will have to include some more information. You need to indicate was portions of your paper are being cited. By simply listing your references and not letting the reader know what reference is direct to what sentence/quote, this action is not very helpful.

Let’s say I do not know anything on the topic, can I turn in a paper that is mostly other sources?

This is not a good idea. The whole point of a paper or assignment is for the audience (your professor) to hear your voice and understand your thoughts on a topic. You will have to do some reading and research to learn more about the topic and then write about it. Use quotes from other sources to a minimum, they should not out-shine you. Also, you need to double check with your professor to ensure you are on the right track and ensure your understand what they are looking for in your paper.

How do I clearly write what is my idea verses my sources’ idea? In other words, how do I keep my voice?

This may take some practice. If you have a source that is just spot on and there is no way you could re-explain it or integrate it with another idea, then quote the reference directly. You can also paraphrase the quote to keep the original sources ideas true, but this utilizes your own words as well; double bonus. To make sure you are properly paraphrasing, you can practice this by explaining, out loud, the concept without looking at the source. Whatever you say out loud to describe the original concept is what you should include in your paper; no synonyms here, just your own words.

If I put the information from my sources into my own words, do I still need to include citations?

Short answer, yes. Why-because you are still describing THEIR ideas, not your own. Just because you are using your own words does not mean that you created this idea.


Are there some kinds of information that I do not need to document or cite directly?

You may be referring to common knowledge. Common knowledge is information that nearly everyone knows. This could refer to the general population as a whole or a specific area, age group or expertise.

Do I have to cite myself?

If you have written another paper and you are using bits and pieces of it in this paper, then yes. Self-plagiarism is the act of presenting your work that has been done in the past as if it were completed in the present. Even if your paper was not published, you should cite yourself. This is a grey area and there are times when you do not need to cite yourself, so double check with your professor.

Will I go to jail if I plagiarize?

No, you will not go to jail for plagiarism, but you may fail the class or be kicked out of the program depending on how severe the act. Please see Ohio University’s Code of Conduct for more information.

How can I double check my work for plagiarism?

The most important thing you can do is to understand what plagiarism is and knowing how to not plagiarize. However, there are many helpful tools for you to utilize, one being Google. Copy and paste a couple paragraphs into Google and see if there is an exact match. Furthermore, there are many programs out there that their sole purpose is to check for plagiarism, such as: WriteCheck, DupliChecker, etc.

If you need help writing your papers then reach out to:

The Student Writing Center

  • The Student Writing Center (SWC) provides free writing assistance to Ohio University students. Our tutors can help at any stage of the writing process from discussing and organizing ideas to polishing a final draft. Tutors will not edit papers but will guide students in improving their writing strategies.
  • Remote tutoring is available either via TutorTrac (opens in a new window)(opens in a new window) or by calling 740-566-8888. Your tutor will send you an email including a link to your tutoring appointment, which will be a Teams meeting. You and your tutor will be able to use chat, audio and/or video features, share documents, and work together on the whiteboard.

Graduate Student Writing Center