Graduate Student Handbook

Appendix F: Avoiding Plagiarism

Based on the experience of the faculty, some graduate students are insufficiently aware of the boundaries of plagiarism. In the interest of preventing an unfortunate problem, this section of the handbook attempts to clarify what plagiarism is and how it may be avoided. The following is an excerpt from Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers. Certain passages have been italicized for emphasis (not in the original), and her examples have been replaced by some drawn from the health administration literature.

Plagiarism, whether it occurs deliberately or unintentionally, is considered cheating. Half-copying a source is never acceptable--even if you name the source in the paper—because half-copying does not make clear exactly which language is from the source and which is your own. . . .

Unintended plagiarism ruins a writer’s reputation just as much as outright cheating. . . . Universities have been known to withdraw graduate degrees from students who have plagiarized. . . .

You must document anything specific that you have read and used in your paper: direct quotes; paraphrases of sentences; summaries of paragraphs or chapters; table graphs, and diagrams that you copy or construct yourself from specific information. The only exception is common knowledge or general information that appears in most sources because it is indeed commonly or generally known. . . . If you are new to a topic and not sure about what is considered common knowledge, ask someone with expertise. When in doubt, cite the source.

Two different acts are considered plagiarism: (1) to borrow someone’s ideas, information, or style without citing the source, and (2) to cite the source but borrow choice words and sentence structure without using quotation marks to indicate the borrowing.  It isn’t enough to name the source; you must quote the source exactly in quotation marks or you must paraphrase its meaning completely in your own words.

When you paraphrase, you still need to name the source.  You can mix your source’s especially apt phrases with your own words only if you put quotation marks around the source’s phrases—a practice that makes your sentences legal but rather odd-looking unless you use transitional signals very skillfully…  You document sources to acknowledge the sources’ information, not to give yourself the chance to steal their wording.  The following is an example of plagiarizing an author’s wording, even though the source is cited.

[Note: health management examples in boxed text have been used to replace those in the Hacker book.]


The tendency in the risk-averse hospital environment is to test the waters by making small investments.  Often the result is that the new venture is undercapitalized and does not stand a chance of contributing to the enterprise (Fox, p.55).

…It is also considered plagiarizing to borrow the source’s sentence structure but to substitute your own synonyms, even though the source is cited, as illustrated below.


Testing the market with small investments often results in the new venture being undercapitalized and therefore it does not have a fair shot at contributing to the core business (Fox, p. 55).

 If your transitional signal and documentation make it very clear that you are presenting something you have read, you may use without quotation marks the necessary general words but not the author’s particularly striking phrases.

…It is dangerously easy for your memory to restore unconsciously the source’s original wording to your paraphrased rough draft when you polish it later.  Your only precaution is to double-check potential unconscious plagiarizing by comparing your draft with your note cards—or better yet, with the original—before typing the finished version of your paper.

In summary, to avoid plagiarism

  1. Identify the source precisely, and
  2. Either paraphrase the source in your own words or copy the author’s words exactly, using quotation marks.

Using Ms. Hacker’s summary rules, here are two ways to use the work that would be acceptable:


Fox says that the tendency in the risk-averse hospital environment is to test the waters by making small investments…” She argues further that because of this tendency it is frequently true “that the new venture is undercapitalized and does not stand a chance of contributing materially to the enterprise” (Fox, p.55).

Obviously, if one does this throughout a paper, the constant repetition of quotation marks is likely to become tedious and the reader will begin to wonder if you are able to write any words of your own.


Among the barriers to vertical integration, Wende Fox identifies the risk aversion of hospitals.  She argues that hospitals frightened by the possibility of loss may be overly cautious in committing investment funds.  This can mean that a potentially successful project will fail due to lack of resources (Fox, p. 55).

Our ability to demonstrate the paraphrasing approach is limited by the need to be brief.  Clearly, the goal is to use the work of others creatively to supplement and reinforce your own, but not to replace your own.

To Ms. Hacker’s advice one more point may be added: the risk of plagiarism may be significantly reduced by doing more of your own thinking,  writing frequently requires using the work of others appropriately, but good writing is not produced by simply string together the words and ideas of others.


Resources on Plagiarism and Academic Integrity at Ohio State: (Committee on Academic Misconduct website on resources, the university’s Code of Student Conduct, and other videos and guides)