Skip to main content

Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism

When writing research papers (and virtually all other types of coursework that you will complete at UCSD), you should produce original work that is yours alone with two major exceptions: (a) group assignments and (b) the use of academically permissible sources with correct attribution.  In other words, the text of your research paper should be genuinely written by you and not someone else; the ideas should be yours and not copied from others; and when you do incorporate ideas or materials from others’ work, you should clearly acknowledge that fact through the careful use of citations, references, and quotes as appropriate.  For group assignments, such as a research report that is completed by a team of students, that work should be authored by the group members alone and no others. 

For information on correctly citing sources in APA style, please see the Citing References section of this website. 

Recommendations for Avoiding Plagiarism

To avoid plagiarism while writing research papers, please keep the following rules in mind:1,2

  • Do write the research paper in your own words. Don’t copy the words of others (and especially never copy and paste text!).  Even copying a short phrase, copying text but changing some of the words, or paraphrasing without acknowledging the original source is still considered plagiarism.
  • Do use your own ideas when writing the research paper. When you include the ideas of others (even if you put them in your own words), you should attribute the source of those ideas by using in-text citations and references.
  • Do cite sources whenever you are unsure of whether a citation is needed or not. As a general rule it is better to err on the side of caution (an extra citation or two won’t hurt).
  • Do ask for guidance when you are unsure. Consult your instructor, TAs, librarian, and/or the Academic Integrity Office.

Self-Plagiarism Should be Avoided

At UCSD, at other institutions, and in scientific writing it is generally inappropriate to reuse prior written work unless permission has been granted in advance.  The reuse of term papers, written assignments, paragraphs, and so on – even if it was written by the same person – is considered self-plagiarism.  Self-plagiarism is just as inappropriate as plagiarizing someone else's work.  

Detecting Plagiarism

With the advent of new technology, professors and instructors have the ability to detect even the tiniest amounts of plagiarism.  For instance, if your course requires that papers be submitted using Turnitin, then a Similarity Report (which analyzes and compares your paper against a database of thousands of other papers) is automatically generated for each submission. Instructors can also manually submit papers to Turnitin or other checking services; your papers may be compared against internet sources.  In short: detecting plagiarism is easier than ever – which is yet another reason why students should avoid it at all times.

Further Resources  

How-To Videos     



Carver, L. (2014).  Writing the research paper [Workshop]. 
2Lapidis, R. (2017).  Writing a research paper [Workshop].