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MLA: What to Cite

How to avoid plagiarism

When writing an academic paper, you must acknowledge all the resources (oral, print or web, including YouTube videos and social media posts) used in your research. Not only does this allow your instructor to locate the sources you mention, it prevents you from being accused of plagiarism. In most instances, plagiarism is unintentional; it can be confusing to know what to cite. In general, it is better to be safe than sorry.

  • You have paraphrased from the original author. Is it okay to paraphrase without citing the author?  

No, even if you don't use the authors' exact words, the ideas still originate with them. You must give them credit.

  • Is copying just a sentence or two without crediting a source plagiarism?

Yes, it is. You must give credit for any content you copy.

  • Is it plagiarism to cut and paste from an electronic document without acknowledging the source?  

Absolutely. the fact that it is easy to do doesn't make it right. Cite the source!

  • You’ve added a statistic found on a government website. Since it is a government site, you do not need to cite the source. Is that correct?

No, it is not. Even government information must be cited.

  • You include information that you think is “common knowledge,” such as: Richmond is the capital of Virginia. Do you need to cite this information?

No, you do not need to cite information that is considered "common knowledge."

  • There is no author listed so you haven’t cited the article. Is that correct?

No, it is not. If there is no personal author given, then perhaps there is a corporate author (e.g. Virginia Department of Transportation). If there is no personal or corporate author then, the title will come first in your citation.

  • You included some text that you read on Twitter. Twitter messages don’t need to be cited. Right?

No. You should still give credit to the person you're quoting.  Use Twitter's Advanced Search to find old tweets!