Plagiarism: Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if I find other sources cited by the author to support the view I want to cite? Do I have to cite all of his sources?
There is no specific number. Chances are, if you’re asking this question, you’re relying too heavily on sources and should instead think more deeply on your own about your topic. Use your sources more selectively: choose key concepts, or quote phrases or sentences from the source in support of your claim when something is well said. You could also quote to represent the opposing view accurately. However, if the source is mostly useful not for its concise wording but for the information it provides, paraphrase the information in your own words, introducing the paraphrase by crediting the author, and ending with a footnote.
If you’re looking to insert synonyms into an author’s original sentence structure, you’re still relying too heavily on the source. Copying the sentence structure and changing a few words may mean that you have not fully digested the content of what you’re reading. Follow the guidelines for quoting and paraphrasing, paying special attention to the example of “maintaining your own voice.”
Minor changes may be made to blend the quotation into the grammar of your sentence, help the reader understand pronoun references it contains, or focus the reader on certain important information. These changes must be clearly indicated, and the original meaning must be strictly preserved. Indicate additions by placing them in brackets [ ].1 If you leave words or phrases out, you must use ellipsis points correctly: use three ellipsis points, each one separated by a space, to show words left out within a sentence. When you leave out full sentences or begin with words in one sentence and finish with words from another, use four ellipsis points.
You may add italics to emphasize a point, but this must be noted in one of two ways: (1) immediately following the italicized word, insert “emphasis added” in brackets; or (2) in the footnote, following the page number and a semicolon, insert “emphasis added.”
When using quotes of fewer than five lines, you may introduce them with the name of the author and a verb such as writes, claims, or argues.2
If the quote is five lines or longer, you may use a block quotation. Single space and indent the lines you are quoting. You should not use quotation marks at the beginning or end of a block quote because the indentation and single spacing indicate that the words are quoted from another source. You should, however, insert a footnote at the end of the citation.4 The following excerpt from a student paper illustrates the use of a block quotation:
Q. What happens if I find other sources cited by the author to support the view I want to cite? Do I have to cite all of his sources?
If you are paraphrasing information from a source—for example, a commentary—that cites other sources for support, you only have to cite the source you are consulting. If it is necessary to mention "Author B," with whom "Author A" is interacting, in order to make sure the reader accurately understands the context for your quotation of "Author A," you may mention “Author B” when you introduce the quote:
If you want to use a quotation that is reprinted in a source, look the quote up in the original, so that you can understand and fairly represent the meaning of the quotation in its original context. If the original source is inaccessible, you may use the form for citing "One Source Quoted in Another."5
Common knowledge is defined as information that is well-known and generally assumed to be true by those who read and write on the topic.6 You would not be expected to cite a specific work when you draw on this common knowledge, but if you take specific ideas from a source, cite that source.
If you cannot remember where you heard an idea or read a quotation, don’t panic. If you have learned about the idea or quote from an everyday conversation or in Email with a friend, pastor, or professor, you may cite that person in a footnote, but it is not necessary to include an entry for it in the bibliography. If you remember a quotation, try to look up the quotation, and omit it if it cannot be verified. If the idea could be considered common knowledge, see our FAQ on citing common knowledge.
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1 Turabian, A Manual for Writers, 351–57.
2 For a list of other verbs that can be used to introduce a quotation, see the CTW handout “Blending Quotations.”
3 Turabian, A Manual for Writers, 75–77 and 347–48.
4 Turabian, A Manual for Writers, 349–350.
6 “Common knowledge” generally refers to dates of events in history, well-known phrases (e.g., “All men are created equal”), geographical information, genealogies, names of people, and information gathered through the senses. David Blakesley and Jeffrey L. Hoogeveen, The Thomson Handbook (Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsorth, 2008), 360-61.