Is It Plagiarism If You Cite? A Must-Read For Writers

by CJ McDaniel // February 24  

What is plagiarism? How can you avoid plagiarism? Is it plagiarism if you cite? These and many more are what we will address in this post.

Tons of books and academic materials are written and published daily around the globe. They are either print forms or soft copies. These materials come from authors, students, scholars, and writers, in general.

Plagiarism has been an issue since time immemorial. It involves using another person’s idea without giving proper credit. Plagiarism is a punishable offense, with the punishment ranging from jail time, a fine, or both.

Is It Plagiarism If You Cite?

Now let’s go back to the question, is it plagiarism if you cite? 

No, it is not plagiarism if you cite. Plagiarism is when you do not mention the source of your information. When you fail to name the original author, people assume that you are the originator of the work or idea you have written.

What Is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism refers to passing off someone else’s words, thoughts, ideas, and language. Plagiarism can also pass for what is known as ‘literary theft.’

By doing this, the plagiarizer claims ownership of another person’s words, thoughts, and ideas. He or she begins to take credit for works that do not belong to him or her.

The Forms Of Plagiarism

Plagiarism comes in different forms. You need to be aware of them to guard yourself and know your limits when relying on other people’s ideas.

Forms of plagiarism include the following: verbatim, auto plagiarism, paraphrasing, mosaic plagiarism, accidental plagiarism, copying and pasting from online material, and failure to acknowledge help received.

Copying verbatim:

A person will be guilty of plagiarism when he copies verbatim, i.e., word for word, the content of another person’s work. You should put in bracket quotations that you obtain from another person’s work, or you could put those words in the indent and cite it adequately either in-text or reference list.

Another form of plagiarism is auto-plagiarism:

It occurs when you submit a work already submitted for evaluation by you, whether partially or in full, under the current course or a different university. You can only safely do this when this is specially provided for your institution or after seeking the course tutor’s permission. Submitting a research topic in two different places and receiving funds from those other places could also pass as plagiarism. Another name for this is self-plagiarism.

Paraphrasing is also a form of plagiarism:

Here, the writer alters some words and the arrangement of the person’s work that he is passing off, or where he follows surreptitiously the line of argument of the work that he is copying. It amounts to plagiarism unless he acknowledges that work properly.

Mosaic plagiarism: 

This is when a person uses quotes from another without quotation marks to delineate between the words he has borrowed and ingenuity.

Accidental plagiarism: 

This happens where a person fails to name or give credit to the source of his quote or information or where he mistakenly misquotes the basis of his knowledge. It tells us how serious the offense of plagiarism, even where it happens accidentally.

When someone copies and paste from online material without proper citation, it leads to plagiarism. So, one must exercise caution when obtaining materials from the internet. Sometimes, the work you are copying could also be a work that has not undergone any scrutiny and could also be plagiarized. Such results may be mere copy and paste with no scholarly research.

The Fight Against Plagiarism

Schools and professional academic bodies treat plagiarism as a serious offense. This is because plagiarism is similar to theft, and it hurts. No author would be happy seeing someone steal their intellectual property without due credit.

It is heartbreaking and sends a wrong signal to owners of this intellectual work when others copy their work without credit. There’s no iota of encouragement in that. There’s no reward for their brain work. The truth is, if plagiarism continues, it will not encourage originality in intellectual works.

When a person indulges in plagiarism, it shows a lack of intellectual growth. Students were enrolled into schools to learn, be objective, learn how to think and analyze situations and express their own opinion. But plagiarism defeats this goal of education.

There is the need to fight plagiarism so that students and academicians can be productive.

Over the years, persons and organizations have developed the application to check for plagiarism.

Academic institutions took it on and made it laws that school works – assignments, term papers, projects, periodicals, even examinations, and the likes should pass through the plagiarism test.

It has also extended to any text or book that one wants to publish; it should go through a plagiarism test.

What Is A Citation?

The citation refers to the source of the information you relied on in your research or any other written work. When you cite the basis of your information, you let your readers know that such information does not originate from you.

There are different styles of citation, and it varies from one field to another. You should find out the appropriate citation for the field in which you are writing.

The Need For Citation

You cannot overemphasize the need for citation. A citation does your writing a world of good. Firstly, citing the source of your idea makes your work authentic. It shows your readers that the content of your work is original.

Citation helps you give others credit for their hard work, time, and resources channeled into their work.

Also, citation provides a reference point for your readers to fall back on, maybe, where they want to further their reading on a particular subject.

Is Plagiarism A Crime?

Generally, plagiarism is not a matter of law but ethics. However, there are penalties where the law prohibits it, and then another goes against it.

Plagiarism is found mostly in school settings since school deals majorly with academic writing. Indeed, plagiarism breaks a school’s integrity policy.

It will only be a crime if an organization has no policy for plagiarism. In such an organization could be sued for breach of contract.

Penalty For Plagiarism

In a school setting, the penalty for plagiarism includes failing an assignment or exam. It could also be a reduction in grade and even expulsion.

If a person received accolades or rewards from a plagiarized work, and this is discovered, it could lead to a revocation of all the monetary grants, rights, and benefits that came with the award.

A person who is of high regard can be banned from professional bodies that he or she belongs to discovered that he indulged in plagiarism. Plagiarism also leads to public disgrace and embarrassment.

It involves a company that the court could give judgment can be issued against them to pay for damages.

How To Avoid Plagiarism

It would be best if you avoided plagiarism at all costs. Below are some of the ways you can prevent plagiarism. It will help you to correct yourself when you begin to plagiarize accidentally.

Use plagiarism checkers:

Plagiarism checkers will help you identify quotes that you have not cited. It will also reveal to you when you have gone beyond the limits to copy a person’s work. Always remember to do this before sending in your written work.

Some plagiarism checkers that abound include Grammarly, Turnitin, Copyscape, PlagScan, PlagTracker, Unicheck, Ephorus, Quetext, and Compilatio Bibme, Plagramme, Smallseotools, SE Reports, amongst others.

Give credit to the source of your fact or information:

This is important whether they are books, articles, journals, magazines, newspapers. It doesn’t matter, whether they’re in soft or hard copies; you should always find a way to give credit to the owners.

It shows that you appreciate the effort of those writers and that you are an honest person. You can do these by employing in-text citations, reference lists, footnotes, or bibliography in your work.

Write in your own words:

After reading a person’s work, try to communicate the idea using your own words. Employ creativity when you write.

Be original:

Exhibit academic excellence and confidence by writing your opinion after analyzing an issue. It does not matter whether it is generally accepted all not. All that matters is that what you have written is a product of your ingenuity.

More so, you could also employ the following as a guide to check against plagiarism any time that you set out to write.

When you have completed your writing, take some time away from your work. You can decide to take a walk or rest by taking a nap or lying still in bed. Then, come back to your work, and ask yourself the following questions while reading through:

Quoted the exact words of the person that you are using:

Failure to cite properly would also lead to plagiarism.

  • If you have cited the words, ideas, or thoughts you have relied on in your in-text or reference list.
  • If you have obeyed the citation style rules obtainable in the field in which you are writing.
  • If you have committed plagiarism against yourself by introducing without permission portions from your previous work in current work.
  • If you have used a reliable and accurate plagiarism checker. You would not want to turn in badly plagiarized work.


Relying on a person’s work is not plagiarism. Plagiarism occurs when you refuse to cite your sources. Plagiarism is an offense that professionals and educational institutions do not take lightly. The consequences for plagiarism could go as far as litigation or expulsion from a professional body.

It would be best to exercise due diligence when copying others. You can recheck the various forms of plagiarism on this post for in-depth understanding to avoid making such mistakes.

About the Author

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!