Correct Citation and the Avoidance of Plagiarism


When should I quote, and when is a paraphrase more appropriate?
  • Use a quote for the ideas (besides your own) that are most important to your paper. Your agreement with, disagreement with, or amendments to these ideas should generally constitute important aspects of your arguments. Because of their importance, it is the exact words of these quotes that you want to respond to.


  • Use a paraphrase when an idea is less central to your own argument, or when you feel you can more concisely state what would be a lengthy quote.
How else can I refer to other authors' ideas besides quoting and paraphrasing?
  • General Reference: It is possible to refer to other writers' ideas in a way that is somewhat more general than either a quote or a paraphrase, such as in the following example:

      Many critics have observed that Tom Wolfe, for example, has made something of a cottage industry out of ironic observation of America's ruling class

    There is no citation following either "critics" or "Tom Wolfe" because there are no particular critics being referred to in the first case, and no particular work being referred to in the second. However, a general statement like the one above, if it occurs in an academic paper at all, is almost always going to precede a more specific discussion of the same topic which mentions (and cites!) particular critics and particular texts.
  • Brief Reference: This is where you provide a cited reference without including either a quote or a paraphrase, such as in the following example:

      Similar work has already been done by Purdy (1978) and Jenkins (1986).

    These citations are to specific works which will be included in the paper's Works Cited section, but the writer did not feel the need to either quote or paraphrase any particular text by these authors; they are serving more as a general backdrop to an argument or as part of a review of relevant literature.

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