Answered By: Priscilla Coulter
Last Updated: Jan 09, 2020     Views: 58951

When you are writing a research paper, finding the right words can be tricky.  If you read a superb sentence or a perfect paragraph in one of your sources, you might be tempted to copy and paste it into your own paper.  Most of us understand that just copying and pasting someone else's work, without providing a citation, is plagiarism.   But what if:

  • You change a word or two in the sentence after you paste it into your paper, then provide a citation at the end of it.  Is that enough?
  • You rewrite the sentence or paragraph or sentence in your own words.  Do you still need a citation?

While the situations above may seem like grey areas, they can still constitute plagiarism.  If you keep in mind a very basic definition of plagiarism (representing someone else's words, data or ideas as your own), it can guide you in deciding what to do instead.  We recommend:

  • If you rewrite that perfect paragraph or sentence (aka you paraphrase or summarize it), remember that the ideas in the reworded version still came from the original author(s) you must cite the original source!
  • If you really want to use that superb sentence from another source, then quote it 
    • Don't try to change just a word or two, and pass the rest off as your own writing (even with a citation, you are representing someone else's words as your own if you don't use quotation marks). 
    • Direct quotes should be used sparingly...paraphrasing or summarizing better shows your instructor that you have a good grasp of the sources that you read.
    • Don't forget to cite the source that the quote comes from!

Would it help to see some examples?  
Explore the Writing Process page of Writing@APUS:

Writing Process page

See also:

Text-based tutorials:

Video tutorials:

Related Topics

Contact Us

Chat with a librarian.  more info


Library Notices & Alerts alert icon

Check here for updates about any ongoing technical outages and issues in the library.