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Going to the Source:

A resource provided by collaboration between the College Libraries, the Writing Center, and the Faculty


Take-away tips: a summary of key points

  • No one’s ideas are completely original. We depend on others’ insights to come up with our own.
  • Citing sources is essential to developing new knowledge, because it allows researchers to retrace one another’s steps and decide whether or not they agree with particular conclusions.
  • Claiming someone else’s work as your own or hiding their in uence on your own ideas is a type of theft.
  • If you plagiarize at Vassar, even if you did not intend to, you are responsible to the Academic Panel.
  • Citing sources is not something you do “at the end” when you’ve nished a paper; keeping track of sources is integral to all stages of reading, researching, thinking and writing.
  • One of the best guards against plagiarism is planning ahead.
  • You can cite any idea. If you have an intellectual debt, whether it comes from a blog, a class lecture, or a personal conversation, you should acknowledge it.
  • Whenever you borrow three or more words in a row, put them in quotation marks.
  • You must provide a citation even if you summarize a source rather than quoting it directly.
  • Closely paraphrasing a source–rather than summarizing or directly quoting it–can put you at risk for plagiarism in some disciplines but is acceptable in others. Ask your instructors about practices in different academic elds.
  • You can’t cut and paste from Wikipedia or any other online source and present it as your own work. Even if no author is listed, this is still plagiarism.
  • Specific facts that never change, such as the date of a historical event, don’t need citation.
  • Make sure to get clear instructions from your professor before working with others on collaborative projects.
  • A guide to citation forms and style guides in different disciplines is available at
  • When in doubt, cite.
  • Neither this guide nor any other can substitute for conversation with your professors. Ask them first when you have questions. You can also get help from the Research Librarians, the Writing Center, your academic adviser, and the Dean of Studies office.