Using Source Materials: An IntroductionWriter's Web
(printable version here)

Plagiarism, as stated in the University of Richmond Honor Code Statutes, "is the presentation, oral and/or written, of words, facts, or ideas belonging to another source without proper acknowledgment"(1). For academic writing, this usually involves the use of outside material without properly citing sources. To avoid unintentionally plagiarizing a source, be sure to check your paper's documentation with your professor and/or a tutor at the Writing Center.

You should also check with your professor about the "style" of documentation you'll need to use. Each academic field uses its own system for citing sources. In English, the standard is The Modern Language Association (MLA) Handbook. In History, many UR professors require Kate Turabian's A Manual For Writers. Psychologists use The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). These three guides, and several others, are available at the Bookstore; some are on reserve at Boatwright Library. Short reference sheets to these systems are also available here on Writer's Web.

What is a Direct Quotation?

Whenever you directly quote the words of an author, you must note that you've copied this and indicate that the quotation is taken verbatim from a source. Although the conventions vary between each system of documentation, generally you place direct quotations in quotation marks (") unless the quotation runs more than four lines. In those cases the quotation is set apart from the rest of your text by indenting it ("block quotation").

In either case, you follow the quotation with a note of some kind that indicates the source; this either takes the form of a footnote/endnote number or a parenthetical reference. For example, if you were quoting from John Doe's book on grammar (using MLA format), your paper might read as follows:

The direct quotation can add emphasis to your work. As the author of Grammar for Everyone puts it, "the direct quotation serves to support your ideas, to emphasize a point, or to add a memorable quotation to your work" (Doe 25).

This brief guide to documentation cannot cover all of the rules and exceptions about direct quotations. The topics that follow in Writer's Web give some details, but you should also consult a handbook, with your professor or a tutor, when you have specific questions.

What is a Paraphrase?

Paraphrases restate another person's ideas using your own words and your own sentence structures. Avoid filling your paper with direct quotations, because it makes the paper, little more than a summary of what others have said, look unoriginal.

Paraphrases, however, give you another method for incorporating source material. Like direct quotations, paraphrases must be credited to their sources; to fail to do so constitutes plagiarism. Remember, just restating another's original idea by using different words does not make it your own!

When you paraphrase material, put it in your own words and use your own sentence structure. Don't allow the wording to resemble the original, even if you cite the source. Otherwise, you're plagiarizing the author's words without letting the reader know that the words aren't your own.

Consider our direct quotation:

"the direct quotation serves to support your ideas, to emphasize a point, or to add a memorable quotation to your work" (Doe 25).

Here's a possible paraphrase:

John Doe gives three reasons for using direct quotations in one's work; he notes that quotations can support one's ideas, provide emphasis, or add eloquence in the form of a memorable quotation (25).

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