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Avoiding Plagiarism

Learn how to avoid plagiarism and to reference your sources correctly

What is Plagiarism?

Throughout your studies in Trinity College Dublin you will develop and write assignments that require research. Your ideas will be expressed through words, images, diagrams and other multi-media forms. As you research you will be expected to understand and build upon the work of others. This requires acknowledging correctly and fully the contributions of others to your own scholarship. Regardless of what discipline you enter in Trinity, the cornerstone of its scholarship is academic honesty. So no matter what form your scholarly writing takes, you are expected at all times to take responsibility for the integrity of your work as you advance knowledge in your field of study.

The word plagiarism is derived from the Latin words meaning ‘kidnapper’. In its simplest sense, plagiarism can be seen as stealing someone else’s words or ideas and passing them off as your own, although plagiarism comes in many forms. In some educational systems, rules for avoiding plagiarism may not be clearly defined. Some of you may be studying in Ireland for the first time and may have different culturally-based understandings of plagiarism. However, whether unintentional or intentional, plagiarism is your responsibility and you need to know exactly what it is in order to avoid it.

This short video will help you to understand what plagiarism is and how you can avoid it.


Here are some guidelines on avoiding Plagiarism in your assignments. The Ready Steady Write plagiarism tutorial is designed to help you to understand and avoid plagiarism. All Trinity students must complete this tutorial.

Referencing the work of others in one’s own writing

In academic writing, writers always interact with each other’s texts and so there will be frequent references to the ideas, thinking or research of other authors writing in this field. You must give credit to those with whom you are interacting and must reference and cite correctly.

If you want to include a quotation or paraphrase from a source which illustrates or helps you to back up your argument or point, you must always provide the exact source and a complete reference. This means that you need to keep accurate records when you are making notes. Citing sources shows you are entering the conversation already begun in the academic or professional community. Knowing how to reference is key. There are a variety of referencing systems, but in all systems a source is cited in the text with a name or number. The name or number connects with the full source details in a footnote or reference list.

Our Citation Styles pages give more guidance and help.


You will be given guidance by your department on how exactly to use quotations in your work. Any direct inline quotations (i.e., quotations inserted in a sentence) of someone else’s words must be put into quotation marks and attributed to their original author.

Block quotations (longer quotations as a separate paragraph) should generally be used sparingly, as overuse will demonstrate that you have little original material of your own to add! As with inline quotations, you must provide the exact source.


There is nothing wrong with including short paraphrases of others’ work so long as you attribute the ideas to them. In other words, you need to ensure that you provide the exact source and that it is clear to the reader which ideas you have borrowed.

If you include a long segment of direct paraphrasing - merely inserting synonyms or changing the sentence structure - then you are likely to lose marks on stylistic grounds, just as if you had directly quoted a long fragment of another’s work.

“Copy and paste” is *very* easy to detect, but so is “Copy, shake and paste”! Mixing up paragraph order, changing words etc. to make lifted sections appear different often leaves the essay in a jumbled mess and is generally obvious to the reader.

Keeping Accurate Records

It is vital to maintain accurate records of your sources, in order to be able to properly attribute the words and ideas you draw from them.

Make sure to record the exact page number if you are writing down a quotation.

To keep a record of all this information, you might keep full handwritten or word-processed notes detailing each reference.

Another way would be to save particular searches or records (e.g., by marking those records) in individual databases, such as by using the “My NCBI” feature in PubMed. The Library's Stella Search will allow you to mark records in a similar way and save or e-mail the results.

However, the easiest way to bring together references from all sources is to use bibliographic reference managing software.

Improving your Academic Writing

If you want to learn more about academic writing, read the handbook developed by CAPSL here in Trinity: