Avoiding Plagiarism: Keeping Theft Out of Writing


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We often hear this word from teachers and professors, but do we really know what it means?  It’s okay to use someone’s exact words if I put little marks around them, but not okay if I forget them?  Ridiculous!

Merriam-Webster defines plagiarism as, “to use the words or ideas of another person as if they were your own words or ideas.”

Straight-forward, right? Not so much.

When we start peeling back the layers, it becomes a bit more complicated.  How does someone own an idea?  How does someone own words?  Aren’t they everyone’s to use?  Well, they aren’t.

Someone can own ideas and words – and it’s called intellectual property.  Published works are protected from theft through a series of Canadian copyright laws. Check out the nitty gritty here.

If you don’t put quotations around a series of words that aren’t yours, you are stealing.  Even if you change the word order of a sentence, you are stealing. cut and paste

But don’t worry.  What’s important is that what you claim to be yours is yours.  Remember to:

– always give credit where credit is due

– cite cite cite!

– use your own words to summarize

There are a lot of really amazing resources out there to help you avoid plagiarism.  From websites that create your bibliography for you (BibMe.com) to websites that teach you everything you need to know about making obscure citations (owlpurdue.com).

If you are still feeling overwhelmed about plagiarism, the Essay Coaches at Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space can help!  If you sign up for an online 1:1 Essay Coach Program, you’ll learn tons about plagiarism, citing your sources, proper formatting, and so much more.


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