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MLA 8th Edition: Avoiding Plagiarism

The Modern Language Association (MLA) format for documenting sources in research papers has two basic parts:

  1. In-Text Citations: State the author's name in the sentence and put the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence, or use the author's last name and page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.
  2. Works Cited Page: Give complete publication information on this page.

Common Knowledge vs. Opinion

Common knowledge refers to information widely known and accepted by scholars, such as where Thomas Jefferson was born or the year he signed the Constitution. Common knowledge can be easily found in three or more sources. Even if you didn’t know this information until you began researching, it does not require citing unless you copy the author’s exact words.

Ideas, opinions, studies, and statistics always need citations.

Summary vs. Paraphrase vs. Direct Quote

A summary, paraphrase, and direct quote all need to be cited.

Summary: Put the author’s idea in your own words, condensing heavily. This method works for an overview of multiple paragraphs, entire chapters, or books. Summaries vary in length but are considerably shorter than the original material. Cite, but don’t use quotation marks.

Paraphrase: Put the author's idea in your own words. This method works for explaining large concepts. A paraphrase is approximately the same length as the original source. Cite, but don’t use quotation marks.

Direct Quote: Put the author's exact words in quotation marks. This method works if changing a quote would destroy its impact. Cite and use quotation marks, but don't overuse direct quotes.

Plagiarism and "Plagiaphrasing"

Plagiarism (the unacknowledged borrowing of words or ideas) is a serious violation of academic honesty. So is “plagiaphrasing”: not putting a quote in your own words and style. It takes practice to paraphrase well, but don’t just plug different words into a direct quote. The “plagiaphrase” below does just that. Although the student cites author Diane Plattner, instructors would judge this so-called paraphrase unacceptably close to the original.

Original passage

       “Today’s world of technology and the Internet make research easier, but technology tools also can make plagiarism tempting for students. That is one reason Rockwood School District officials decided to implement EVE2, a new plagiarism detection software” (Plattner 4).

“Plagiaphrased” passage

(only boldfaced words have been changed)

       The modern world of technology and the Web make research simpler, but technology tools also mean plagiarism becomes a temptation for students. That is why Rockwood School District administrators decided to install EVE2, a new plagiarism detection software (Plattner 4).


Learn more about "Summarizing" by reviewing this handout.

Learn more about the "Three Steps to Summarize" by reviewing this handout.

Learn more about the MLA Works Cited page by reviewing this handout.

Learn more about MLA in-text citations by reviewing this handout.

For information on STLCC's academic integrity policy, check out this website.

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