Incorporating the Words and Ideas of Others

Plagiarism is sometimes unintentional. It can occur when you try to put information from a source into your own words, but fail to do so completely. Often plagiarism occurs not because a student is trying to cheat, but because he or she has not been taught how to incorporate the words and ideas of others in the proper way.

Several options exist for incorporating the words and ideas of others into your own work:

  • Quote directly: put quotation marks around the words and identify the source.

  • Paraphrase: put the information into your own words and identify the source.

  • Summarize: take the key ideas and paraphrase them and identify the source.

The form you use to do this depends on the Citation Style you are using:

  • APA – American Psychological Association Style is often used by history, economics, psychology and political science.
  • MLA –Modern Language Association Style is often used in the arts and humanities.
  • CMS - Chicago Manual of Style is often used in architecture and urban planning.
  • CSE – Council of Science Editors is often used in biology and other sciences.
  • The MIT Libraries provides links to all these style guides.

Other citation styles exist.  Some academic journals, for example, have their own styles.  Use the one your instructor or supervisor asks you to use.

In this handbook, all examples are in the APA style.

The Writing and Communication Center provides free individual consultation about any writing difficulty, from questions about grammar to matters of style.