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Citing Sources

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

1. Understand your assignment. Discuss any concerns with your instructor.

What does your instructor expect? Ask about any assignments you don't understand.  Remember, your instructor wants to see you succeed! Maintaining communication with your instructors throughout the semester can be the best step you take.

2. Don't wait to get started.

If you wait too long to begin an assignment, it may become overwhelming. You may not realize how much time it takes to formulate a topic, gather and read the research, and write about it in a properly formatted paper. Note the assignment deadline and set short goals for each step until you complete your project.

3. Break your assignment into smaller steps.

Tackling a 15-page paper in sections of two or three pages is easier. Your assignment's guidelines may differ, so check them carefully; however, you can approach most research paper assignments in the following steps:

  • Choose your topic and narrow it down to a research question or thesis statement. For example, "poverty" is far too broad a topic. "Effects of poverty on academic achievement" or "Does aid from richer countries ultimately help or hinder poor countries' development?" are better-formulated questions for student research. You may have to do some reading about your topic before you can decide how you want to narrow your focus. For more information, see Choosing and Defining Your Topic. 

  • Gather and read resources on your topic. You will likely need a source for general information or background information on your to, such as a book or reference source, in addition to current research that addresses your topic more directly (usually from journals or magazines). Librarians can help you find both of these types of sources. See other library Research Guides by subject for help beginning research.

  • Start writing your paper in sections. Introduce your topic to the reader (introduction), discuss and incorporate research to support your thesis statement (body of the paper), and present your conclusions (conclusion). Don't forget that you must also list all the sources you used on a "References" or "Works Cited" page, which can be time-consuming to assemble and format correctly.

4. Document each step and your sources well as you go along. 

Avoid plagiarizing an author's work accidentally by carefully documenting every source you read. Save copies articles and book chapters (include the book title and copyright pages) so that you have everything needed for a complete citation. 

5. Spend time paraphrasing- don't just fill your paper with direct quotes

Remember that you must cite each source you use (whether your paraphrase, summarize, or directly quote), giving the author(s) credit, in the text of your paper as you discuss each of their ideas. When you paraphrase, be sure your paraphrased passage is sufficiently distinct from the original while conveying its meaning accurately. Not sure how to paraphrase? The OWL at Purdue has some great tips on paraphrasing. 

6. Understand the required citation style and how to use it.

A citation style is a set of formatting guidelines for both your in-text citations and full citations on your reference/works cited list. A citation style may also determine the technical aspects of your paper, such as margin width, font size, and page number placement. Most classes at Holy Family use one of the two most common citation styles: APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association). See the "Citing Sources" tab n the left.

7. Get help with writing and citing!

No one needs to feel as though he or she can't get by in college without cheating or plagiarizing. If you do not understand how to complete your assignment correctly, ask for help! Remember, this is a learning process, and there are many resources available to help you along the way.

  • Visit the Center for Academic Enhancement (CAE). The Center for Academic Enhancement provides free peer and professional tutoring, writing help such as proofreading and editing, and even helpful workshops and advice in areas such as time management and study skills. 

  • Ask a librarian for research assistance. If you are not sure where to begin the reference librarians can help you find appropriate resources for your assignment, help evaluate the resources you already have, and show you how to cite sources in your paper correctly. Email us at reference@holyfamily.edu or visit us at the reference desk during any open library hours.
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