Battling Plagiarism

Ways to avoid plagiarism

TURNITIN - Plagiarism Prevention Service

Turnitin is software that can be used to check papers and other documents for possible plagiarism.  NPS has licensed this software for faculty use.  For more information including how faculty can request access, see the NPS Intranet page.

NPS students interested in using Turnitin to check their class papers or thesis should speak with their faculty instructor or thesis advisor.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Now that you know what kinds of actions constitute plagiarism, how can you make sure you do not commit plagiarism in your writing?

What constitutes a work?

The term work does not refer only to traditionally published articles and books.  It also includes online content such as blogs, personal or commercial websites, social networking sites, and informational resources like Wikipedia.  Even if the identity of the author is not known, students using the ideas or words presented previously in another work must credit the source.

Give credit when using ideas or words from another work

If you conducted a search for plagiarism online, you might notice that most define plagiarism as the theft of someone else's work.  However, one definition in Merriam-Webster defines it as "literary theft: present[ing] as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source" without stating that the work must be from a party other than yourself.  While the significance of this distinction is debatable, the prudent course of action is to provide a citation to the original source, even if the source material was your own creation.

Use quotation marks "____"

Always give credit to the original source in the manner appropriate to the citation style being used.  However, if using a direct quote from another source, make sure to also use quotation marks (for short quotes) or do a block quotation (for long passages) to let the reader know that you are quoting words or phrases from another work.

Q. How do you handle text-message content? Is it put in quotation marks or do you use italics?

A. A message is a message, whether it comes from a book, an interview, lipstick on a mirror, or your phone. Use quotation marks to quote.

Common knowledge exception

If you refer to an idea or concept that is commonly known, you do not need to provide a citation.  However, if you are unsure whether it is common knowledge, or if you refer to another work's unique or novel take on that piece of common knowledge, provide the citation.  Just because a piece of information was published online in Wikipedia does not mean it is common knowledge (nor should you assume that the information is correct).

Remember: It is better to include an unnecessary citation than to neglect a necessary one.  Provide the citation whenever you are in doubt.


The Chicago Manual of Style Online; “Chicago Style Q&A,” accessed April 11, 2011,