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Nursing Guide

What is Plagiarism?

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using someone else's words or ideas without appropriately giving them credit.  Any time you answer a discussion question for class, write a paper, or do a presentation, you have to use your own words.

But it isn't just a school thing.  It's also:

  • Copyright violation
  • Cheating on a licensure exam, or
  • Copying materials to use with a patient or client are all forms of plagiarism.


Consequences of Plagiarism

In school, you might fail an assignment or a class.  After you graduate, you might:

  • Lose your job
  • Lose your license, or
  • Put an institution at financial risk.  

When to Quote

When to Quote

The Purdue OWL website (2015) suggests using quotations for less than 10% of your writing.  

Think of quotations as garnishes or finishing touches, rather than the bulk of your writing.  

Only use quotations when the source of the quotation is an important person or group, or if the exact words are very powerful.


Purdue OWL. (2015).  Paraphrase: Write it in your own words.  Retrieved at

How to Format a Quotation

Quotation Format

1. Put quotation marks ("...") before and after the words you are quoting.

2. Use the exact words.  You must indicate when you change a word in a quotation.

3. If you need to change a word, such as or she, put the replacement word in brackets [...]

  • For example, if you are replacing it with breakfast, you would write "I haven't eaten [breakfast] today."

4. Use an in-text citation after the quotation marks (author, year).  Place ending punctuation (period, comma, etc.) after the citation.


Style Tip

Try to weave a quotation naturally into your sentence, rather than writing it separately.  Only quote the part of the sentence that's relevant or meaningful.


GoodHe didn't know the answer to the question, but he explained that he'd "do whatever it takes to get it."

Less good: This is what he said: "I'll do whatever it takes to get it."

Paraphrasing Step-by-Step

How to Paraphrase a Paragraph

Graphic showing how to paraphrase a paragraph


Put it in Your Own Words

When to Cite

When to Cite

Every time you borrow an idea or words from someone else, you need to cite it.  That means, whether you summarize, paraphrase, or quote, you should cite your source.  


If you're not sure if you need to cite something, go ahead and cite it.  It's never bad to cite too much, but you can get into trouble with plagiarism if you don't cite enough.

When NOT to Cite


Common knowledge that could not be disputed does not need to be cited.  

Example: Clayton Kershaw is a starter for the Dodgers.


Opinion statements don't require citations if they are your own opinions.  

Example: Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet.


Backing up opinions with statistics, studies, or sources strengthens your argument, however. This is a big part of evidence-based practice.

Example: Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet.  He hasn't had an ERA over 2.91 since his rookie season in 2008, according to Baseball Reference (2015).

(2015). Clayton Kershaw. Baseball Reference.  Retrieved from

Citation Format

How to Cite: The APA Format

Avoiding Plagiarism

Avoiding Plagiarism

There are 4 good strategies to avoid plagiarism: Summarize, ParaphraseQuoteCite.

The chart below is a quick reference for when and how to use each method.  Remember: if you're not sure, always cite!

Paraphrase Summarize  Quote

Exact Words?

No No Yes

Quotation Marks?

No No Yes

In-text Citation?

(author, year, page) (author, year) (author, year, page)

Reference Citation?

Yes Yes Yes

How Often?

As needed As needed >10%


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