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The Editor’s Corner: Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Avoid It

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (11th Edition) defines plagiarism as “the act of using another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to that person.” Plagiarism occurs when text is copied verbatim, paraphrased, and/or summarized—all without acknowledgment of the original source.

Stated plainly, unless you place the information in either quotation marks or a block quote and indicate where the information came from, you’re committing plagiarism. Whether it’s intentional or not, plagiarism isn’t just frowned on ethically; it violates the Copyright Act and can carry serious legal consequences, including court fines and jail time.*

The topic can be confusing, especially for new authors, as plagiarism goes beyond mere words to include ideas as well. So how do you as an author avoid plagiarism while still including the thoughts or words of others? By citing your sources.

In other words, tell the reader everything he or she needs to know to seek out any quoted material. Per section 14.18 of the Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition), source citations should include the following:

  • Author of the source material (e.g., J. K. Rowling)
  • Title (e.g., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)
  • Date the material was published (e.g., 1997)
  • City and name of the publisher for a book (e.g., London: Bloomsbury Children’s)

Using the Chicago Manual of Style, a full citation for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone would look like this:

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury Children’s, 1997.

Note that for journals and magazines, both online and off, along with the article title, you should include the issue information, followed by the page number. For example: Journal of Modern Blunders 73, no. 3 (2015): 23.

When the amount of quoted text is small, use a run-in quotation. Per CMS 13.63, “An entire source may be given in parentheses immediately following a quotation, or some of the data may be worked into the text, with details confined to parentheses.” Some examples include:

  • As President Barack Obama said in his first inaugural address, “On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.”
  • “Somewhere far away the headlights of a car swept through the snowy night” (Brian Selznick, The Marvels [New York: Scholastic Press], 392).
  • In his book The Mystery of the Periodic Table, Benjamin Wiker states, “Elementary means the first, the very beginning” (Bethlehem Books).

For longer quotes, use a block quote.

This is an example of a block quote, used when there are one hundred words or more of quoted text [CMS 13.10]. A block quote is preceded and followed by a blank line. It does not have quotation marks but cites the source at the end. (Last name of the author, year of publication, no period)

Use a full citation only the first time a source is mentioned. For each subsequent mention, use an abbreviated citation that includes the last name of the author of the quoted material and the page number on which the quoted material can be found. For example, “He leaned over to look closer, and a black cat leapt out and darted up the stairs. Joseph nearly dropped his suitcase” (Selznick, 415).

A number of questions are frequently asked about citations:

  1. Does common knowledge need to include a source? Answer: No. Common knowledge can be used without citing a source. For instance, most people are aware that John F. Kennedy was assassinated during his presidency. The fact is so well known that it does not need a source citation.
  2. When should I include a Works Cited page? Answer: It depends.
    1. Works Cited or Reference lists are used only in nonfiction.
    2. If the citations are detailed inside the text itself (including footnotes), then no further reference page is needed.
    3. If in-text citations include only basic information (e.g., the author’s last name and a page number), then a Works Cited page with complete details will be needed.
  3. Do I have to follow a specific format for citations? Answer: Not for Dog Ear. Just make sure all citations are consistent throughout the text and include the information mentioned above.

One final tip: Always review your manuscript for instances of cut-and-paste or word-for-word typed-in descriptions. Enclose the text with quotation marks, make it a block quotation, or describe it in your own words (sorry, changing a word or two doesn’t count).

Our editors are happy to work with you, answering any questions you might have and making sure your text is ready for publication. After all, good editing is what sets Dog Ear Publishing apart!

*Not all plagiarism is a copyright violation, and not all copyright violations are plagiarism. To learn the difference, see this article here.