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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Citing Sources

A guide providing information and suggested resources on citing sources.


What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using the words or ideas of another as if they were your own. It can be an intentional or unintentional act, but either way there can be severe consequences. The information below will help you understand and avoid plagiarism.

If you have additional questions about plagiarism, contact your class instructor, the Writers Workshop or Ask a Librarian.

How do you know if you are plagiarizing?

The following are all examples of plagiarism:

  • Copying the words of others, whether from a source or another student.
  • Putting your name on a paper written by someone else.
  • Purchasing or downloading a paper from the Internet and turning it in.
  • Paraphrasing (rewriting in your own words) a source and not documenting it.
  • Not using quotations marks properly when using material from another source.

How can you avoid plagiarism?

Often one of the most difficult aspects of writing a paper is knowing how to properly integrate your sources into your paper. Many cases of plagiarism are unintentional and happen because the writer is unaware of how to properly incorporate and cite sources in the text of a paper. The following steps can help you make certain you have all the information you need to compile proper citations.

  • Make sure you have the complete citations for all your sources.
  • You must include both the URL and date you visited the site for Internet resources cited.
  • Keep careful records of your research. Note where in your paper you use a particular resource.
  • Know what citation format your instructor wants you to use before you get started. For example: MLA, APA, or Chicago.

More specific guidelines and information to help you recognize and avoid plagiarism are available on the following pages:

University of Illinois Stance on Plagiarism

Article 1, Part 4 (402 b) of the student code specifically addresses what constitutes plagiarism. 

Specific penalties for academic integrity infractions are included in Article 1, Part 4 (404)


Plagiarism: The Facts (Accessible View)

The Facts

  • In 2013, 125 Harvard students were implicated for cheating on an exam. 60 of those students were forced to withdraw (Conway & Lee 2014). 
  • In 2011, 55% of college presidents reported an increase of students cheating on papers (Parker, Lenhart, & Moore).

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is taking someone else's ideas or published information and using it in your own writing as if it was your own. When you cite someone, you are acknowledging you have used the information created by someone else in your work. 

If you have additional questions about plagiarism, contact your class instructor, the Writers Workshop or Ask a Librarian.

Why is plagiarism a big deal? 

Plagiarism is stealing. When you plagiarize, you are denying an author rightful credit for their work. In other words, you are stealing. 

Plagiarism is dishonest. Plagiarism is a form of lying--you are passing off someone else's work as your own. 

Plagiarism goes against academic integrity. In the academic world, scholars abide by "academic integrity." This means they agree to share their work under the condition that they receive credit for their original work and scholarship.

How to avoid plagiarism

  1. ​Don't submit someone else's work as your own. This includes friends as well as information you find on the Internet or in a library.

  2. Always cite your sources. This lets your audience know where you got your information. If you don't cite, you're submitting someone else's work as your own. 

  3. Ideas from someone else have to be either paraphrased (rephrased in your own words) and cited; summarized and cited; or quoted and cited. See the difference between quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing.

If you don't cite...

Your instructor and/or an academic committee may look into any suspicions of plagiarism or cheating. If the accusations turn out to be true, the University of Illinois' Student Code states that you could face: 

  1. A reduced or failing grade in the course.
  2. No credit for the course. 
  3. Suspension or dismissal from the University of Illinois.
  4. Any combination of these options. 

Read the University of Illinois' Student Code.

Don't panic! Yes, you have to cite. But we can help! Check out our citation guide:


Conway, M & Lee, S. (2014). 2012-2013 Ad Board Stats Reflect Three-Fold Spike in Academic Dishonesty Cases. The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved from
Parker, K., Lenhart, A. & Moore, K. (2011). The Digital Revolution and Higher Education College Presidents, Public Differ on Value of Online Learning. Retrieved from
"Part 4. Academic Integrity and Procedure" University of Illinois. Administration, n.d. June 1, 2018 
"Why Plagiarism Is Wrong." Teaching and Learning with Technology. Pennsylvania State University, n.d. Web. 29 June 2014.