How to Avoid Plagiarism



In this lesson you will learn to avoid plagiarism and overreliance on one source.

Source Use

Persuasive writing requires thoughtful use of evidence. This occurs in two ways:

  • avoiding plagiarism
  • using balanced sources

As you reread and revise arguments, pay close attention to your use of evidence.​


Plagiarism is the presentation of someone else’s work as your own. Plagiarism can happen with by using someone’s specific words or
big ideas. Often, plagiarism is the result of poorly-used quotes and paraphrases, or taking information without giving proper credit to the author.

This slide based on the work of Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 5th ed. (Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s, 2007).


Avoiding Plagiarism

You can avoid plagiarism by double checking the quotes, paraphrases, and any other evidence in your writing to make sure you have included citations.

Citations tell your reader exactly where your information came from.

Why Cite? Copyright

Not only can plagiarism get you in trouble at school or work, it’s also illegal.

Copyright is the original author’s legal right to the work they created. Authors control who else can use their intellectual property.

To use another author’s ideas in your writing, you will need to cite your original source. In some instances, you may even need to get permission from the original publisher before using someone
else’s work. However, much of what you use for school will fall under ​fair use.

Why Cite? Authority

Another important reason to cite your sources is to establish authority. Your readers will want to see that your positions are supported by evidence from authoritative sources.

By including citations, you are telling your readers exactly where your information came from, this lets them know that you did your research and have strong evidence to support your ideas.

Citation Styles

There are many different citation styles you can use to help you avoid plagiarism. Which one you pick depends on the topic you are writing about, or the requirements provided by your teacher.

Some popular citation styles include MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian.

To make sure you are properly citing your sources, you can use a ​citation guide or citation generator.

Balanced Source Use

As a writer, your use of sources should be balanced. This means pulling evidence and information from a variety of sources that support your

If you notice that your argument relies heavily on one source, it can be an issue for two reasons: first, overusing one source may leave you with an unbalanced,
or one-sided argument; second, it shows your reader that you did not thoroughly research the topic.

Writers have an informal “rule of three” for using evidence. For significant claims, make sure you have cited evidence from at least three
independent sources to support your argument!


Relying On One Source

As you write, make sure that your citations represent an array of sources. Your works cited list, or bibliography, should include both primary and secondary sources, as well as a variety of

Make sure to review your evidence and make sure that you are not relying on one source too heavily. If all of your evidence comes from the same source, you could also be in danger of plagiarism.
Only using one source makes it easy to accidentally take too much of another author’s ideas. Including evidence from multiple sources requires you to add your own analysis and weave ideas


In this lesson, you learned how to avoid plagiarism and use balanced sources.


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