How to Avoid Plagiarism

What happens if you need to use another person’s idea or writing to support your work? Then you need to cite your sources.

How do you do that?

Read below to learn how to properly paraphrase and cite your sources.  

Plagiarism is not acceptable and will not be tolerated at Whitmore School. Whether it’s intentional or by accident, it’s still considered plagiarism, and the same penalties will apply.

What is Plagiarism and How Do I Avoid It?

Plagiarism may be defined as taking credit for work done by others. The two common forms of plagiarism result from quoting and paraphrasing. Quoting is simply copying text “word-for-word,” and it becomes plagiarism when proper credit is not given to the original author.

Paraphrasing is less obvious than quoting. It involves rearranging or slightly rewording what was originally written by another author. Many people feel that by paraphrasing, they avoid plagiarism. However, if the paraphrase contains another person’s idea, it’s still plagiarism unless proper credit is given to the original author. In plagiarism by paraphrasing, a writer “steals” another’s ideas, if not their exact words.

It’s important that you understand what plagiarism is and how you can avoid it. Ideally, all work you submit should be in your own words and should be your own original ideas. If you use other ideas to support your own, then you must cite your sources.

Directly copying text from a source, whether it is a book, website, student, or anything else, is plagiarism, unless you

  • place the text in quotation marks and
  • clearly cite the source using MLA format. You will find the MLA Citation Guide in every course.

Whenever you are asked to provide a definition, you must write the definition in your own words, based on what you have learned in the lesson or from your own research.

If a teacher points out that your work contains plagiarism, then learn from the experience. The teacher is not insulting you; they are notifying you that you need to learn new writing skills. It is similar to a friend pointing out that you have (intentionally or unintentionally) done something seriously impolite. Learn from the experience and decide not to make the same mistake again.

We recommend you study the following sites to gain a firm understanding of plagiarism:

The Research Process

The process of doing research is as follows:

  • Use various sources (books, websites, magazines, etc.) from which to gather information.
  • Take notes from what you find in the sources.
  • Record the exact sources in your notes. Note:, or other search engines do not count as sources; you need the exact URL of the online source.
  • Use credible sources.  Blog pages may NOT be used as references. Blogs generally have no oversight or editorial review, and thus have no quality control.
  • Encyclopedic resources (such as Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica) may be used as legitimate sources. However, any number of pages from one of these resources is still considered a single source. In assignments requiring more than one cited source, other resources must be referenced. Four Wikipedia pages will not pass as four different sources.
  • Begin writing your assignment in your own words.
  • List the sources you use in the bibliography and cite them appropriately.

Go to various sources to gather information. We are more concerned with the effort you put into a lesson than in your rushing through a lesson to complete the course. The point of writing in your own words is to develop your own thinking processes and to improve your written communication and creative skills. Be creative and honest with your written assignments. If you have any questions at all during your writing process, please ask your teacher. That is what they are there for, and they are more than happy to assist you.

Effective practice in avoiding plagiarism is to avoid looking at your source materials when writing your own work. Depend on your notes instead. It is simply too easy to (consciously or unconsciously) copy someone else’s words when they are written in front of you.


If you plagiarize on a lesson, you will get a failing grade for that lesson, and be required to rewrite the plagiarized work (in your own words). This will lower your final grade. You may also be required to complete a Skills and Principles lesson before you are readmitted to the course. If a student repeatedly plagiarizes, the student will be required to pass a proctored exam to earn credit for the courses. There is an additional cost for proctored exams. School administrators may also drop a final course grade by up to one full letter grade. 

Students who repeatedly plagiarize may also be placed on Academic Probation or Expelled from the school.

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