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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 while using someone else's idea, you must cite them.

Paraphrasing someone else's words without a citation is still 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. 


Summarize  Paraphrase Quote

Exact Words?

No No Yes

Quotation Marks?

No No Yes

In-text Citation?

Yes Yes Yes

Reference Citation?

Yes Yes Yes

How Often?

As needed As needed >10%


Helpful eBooks from the ACC Library


The key to summarizing something is to boil it down to just its main ideas.  When summarizing, you're looking for the big picture, not the little details.


A few key parts of a good summary are:

1. It answers the question directly.  If you are summarizing something to answer a question, your summary should start with the answer.

2. It captures the main idea.  Don't just choose a big idea from the text, make sure to capture the meaning.  What's it about?

3. Make it brief.  A good summary is much shorter than the text you're summarizing.


To paraphrase a paragraph

  1. Begin with a summary.  Answer your question directly, or state the main point of the idea you're borrowing.  

  2. Choose a few important ideas to borrow.  Make sure you say them in your own words!  If you don't use your own words, it's plagiarisim, not paraphrasing!

  3. Finish with a conclusion.  Restate your main idea, put a twist on it, or add your own thoughts about the subject.


Diagram of paraphrased paragraph



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.


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.