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Ezra's Research Diary: Tried and True Strategies for Effective Undergraduate Research: Avoid plagiarism

This library guide is designed to help students understand the overall process of undergraduate research at Cornell.

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What Constitutes Plagiarism?

What exactly does it mean to plagiarize? According to the American Heritage Dicitonary, to plagiarize is to "reproduce or otherwise use (the words, ideas, or other work of another) as one's own or without attribution."

So, obviously it's not OK to copy word-for-word the work of another without proper citation. Take a look at Cornell's Guide to Academic Integrity (esp. pages 16-28) for some more examples that might be harder to spot. Here are a few:


  • The Mosaic: lifting multiple phrases or sentences out of the original text and rearranging them in new patterns
  • The Paraphrase: substituting approximately equivalent terms to represent ideas from another author
  • The "Apt" Term: lifting and reusing unique terms or expressions from other authors

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Know what plagiarism is: Take some time to read the Academic Code of Integrity. Seriously, the examples are useful, and they will help you avoid inadvertent plagiarism.
  • Know your topic well: If you know your topic well, you won't feel the pressure to borrow exact terms or phrases from other authors. You will also be better prepared to synthesize your own ideas in the context of what researchers have contributed. 
  • Try Explaining to a Friend: If you're having a hard time wrapping your head around a topic, try explaining it to a friend who is not familiar with what you are studying. This will help you find your own way of articulating an abstract or hard-to-understand idea. 
  • Understand the Consequences: Depending on the severity of the offence, the student may receive a reduced or failing grade, be placed on probation, or even be suspended or expelled from the University. Additionally, the offence may go on the student's permanent transcript. Additionally, if you are caught plagiarizing, you will lose the respect and trust of your colleagues. 

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