Homework Help: Avoiding Plagiarism

September 10, 2018 | Laura

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As a librarian who spends most of her days in Toronto high schools, I have sat in on a lot of staff room lunches and overheard a lot of talk that probably sounds familiar to you. 

“…and I was able to google parts of his assignment and found the exact website he copied from,”

“I can always tell when a student has copied their work,”

“Over half the class has plagiarized parts of the last assignment.”

Students plagiarizing (ie. copying others’ work and passing it off as their own) is nothing new, but the Internet has made it both easier for students to do and easier for teachers to spot it.  While it may seem like the easy way out as you are struggling through an assignment, keep in mind that not only is it cheating and morally suspect, it can also have serious consequences. Students who plagiarize can face failure on an assignment or course, grade reduction, suspension, and possibly dismissal from school at the college or university level.

Plagiarism is, simply put, taking someone else’s words, thoughts, ideas, statistics, or images and trying to pass them off as your own without giving them credit (known in school terms as "citing").  It can be as obvious as copying and pasting from the Wikipedia entry into your paper or as "accidental" as summarizing a chapter from your textbook and not including a source reference.  Both of these examples are plagiarism.

Luckily the Internet has also brought with it many resources to help you understand plagiarism and ways to ensure you avoid it.

If you prefer to watch rather than read online, these videos from academic librarians give you examples and definitions on what plagiarism is, what it looks like and how to avoid it.  My personal favourites for simple and clear content are Brock University’s video, What is Plagiarism and How to Avoid It


and Montgomery County Community College video, Avoiding Plagiarism.

These websites do a great job of outlining different types of plagiarism and why it’s a bigger deal than you might think.  Especially good is Simon Fraser University Library’s page on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism.  It even includes a great online seminar with quizzes to test your plagiarism knowledge. I also really like the Concordia University Student Hub's page What is Plagiarism? and University of Toronto Library's Research Guide on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism.

Toronto Public Library has some great resources to help you with research and avoiding plagiarism, too.

Writing Great Research Papers

Schaum’s Quick Guide to Writing Great Research Papers (also available as an ebook) includes a section on plagiarism and how to avoid it.

You can also always check in with your local library staff for more recommendations of books or websites to help avoid plagiarizing.

For more help with homework, research and tutoring, visit our Homework Help page.