Frequently Asked Questions

What will happen to me if I am caught plagiarizing or cheating?

Refer to the Academic Integrity Violation Flowchart. Your professor may decide to give a mark deduction or a failing mark on your assignment or test. In the case of a punishment, your professor will write a report about the incident, which will then be sent to you, the Department Chair or Dean, and the Registrar's Office. You will have the opportunity to make an academic appeal.


How can I tell if my paraphrase isn't plagiarism?

If your paraphrase is properly cited and accurately represents the original text without copying its words or structure, it is not plagiarism. Keeping the same structure but just changing words to synonyms does not constitute a proper paraphrase. Similarly, keeping mostly the same words but rearranging them within the sentence would also be considered plagiarism.

The best technique for formulating a proper paraphrase is to read and understand the original passage completely, then communicate the same idea written in your own words.


Does having someone edit my work count as plagiarism?

Using copy editors is a common practice, especially for graduate students. Copy editing is not considered plagiarism if the edits are minor, i.e., proofreading and grammar correction. However, if the editing becomes heavy and begins to change words to the extent that a passage may have a different meaning, this editing could be seen as plagiarism. It is recommended that before editing, the editor, student, and supervisor sign an agreement which acknowledges permission of all parties. It may be helpful to read Editors Canada's Guideline to Ethical Editing of Theses/Dissertations.


Is it still plagiarism if I paid for the work?

Yes! Remember, if you didn't do the work, it's not your work. Paying or otherwise tasking someone else to complete your assigned work is known as contract cheating. This is a major form of dishonesty. Read more about contract cheating here.


What is 'common knowledge'?

If a piece of information is considered common knowledge, it means that it is well-known enough to not have to be cited. Usually, if a piece of information can easily be found in at least five independent sources, then it may be called common knowledge, which means you don't have to cite it. However, what is considered common knowledge is still mostly a subjective judgment which may or may not be applicable to different audiences, depending on their backgrounds. This video gives a helpful description of common knowledge and when to cite. If you are in doubt about whether or not to cite it, cite it regardless!


What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property is a concept that indicates ownership over intangible things, such as ideas, methods, discoveries, designs, or works of art. When you cite something, you are acknowledging that thing as someone else's intellectual property, just as when you create your own work, it will be recognized as your intellectual property. This concept applies both in legal (i.e., copyright) and in academic contexts. It is important to understand this concept when thinking about plagiarism; if ideas can be someone's property, then using those ideas without acknowledgment could be seen as stealing. 


What is copyright?

Copyright is a legal right which a creator may hold over their original work, giving them the ability to choose how others may access or use the work. It is a legal signifier of your ownership of intellectual property.


Can I use a quotation or paraphrase that one of my sources cited from another source?

Yes, but you have to make it clear that you are only quoting or paraphrasing from the source you read, not the original source.  You can do this by choosing the appropriate in-paragraph citation or by properly introducing the quotation. For example:

In APA format, a secondary citation would use the words "as quoted in ..." in-text to refer to the source you read which quotes another source. If your source is paraphrasing the primary source, it would use the words "as cited in ..." instead. You may choose to introduce the primary source in the sentence, like this:

According to Hirvela and Du (as quoted in Rogerson & McCarthy, 2017, p. 1), the quality of a paraphrase written by a student can provide "insight into how well students read as well as write".

Later in the text, you might choose to only mention the primary source within the citation, like this:

The quality of a paraphrase written by a student can provide "insight into how well students read as well as write" (Hirvela & Du as quoted in Rogerson & McCarthy, 2017, p. 1).

In MLA format, you would replace the words in the in-text citation from "as quoted in ... " or "as cited in ... ", to "qtd. in ... " before putting the author, and the page number.

According to Hirvela and Du, the quality of a paraphrase written by a student can provide "insight into how well students read as well as write" (qtd. in Rogerson & McCarthy, 1).

You would then include a citation of the source you read in your References or Works Cited section.


What is the difference between a reference list and a bibliography?

A bibliography is a general list of sources which you drew from in your work. If you only looked at a source but did not reference it or use the information, it still must be listed in your bibliography. A reference list or a works cited page are used in the APA and MLA formats, respectively. They include only the sources which you have referenced in your text.


What is self-plagiarism?

It is self-plagiarism to submit the same paper to two different courses. Submitting work which you have completed for a previous course as if you had worked on it for your current course would be dishonest because your professor requires that you apply knowledge learned from your current course to complete assignments. If you wish to submit the same paper twice, you must get the permission of both the professor to whom you are submitting and the professor to whom you have already submitted. 


Who can I talk to if I need help?

Your professor, your librarians, and the Writing Centre would be happy to help you.