Academic Integrity FAQ

The information on this page is intended to assist you with upholding Cornell’s code of Academic Integrity. This guide will help you understand Academic Integrity, but remember that the best information is always available by visiting the Cornell Libraries reference desk and by directly speaking with your professors and teaching assistants. You may also want to refer to other guides available on the Cornell web servers.

  • Acknowledgments

    In the creation of this page, the College of Arts and Sciences guide to Recognizing and Avoiding Plagiarism was used as a reference. Some of the information has been reproduced with permission from the Cornell Copyright Office. Take your time to view the original guide to Recognizing and Avoiding Plagiarism and the Code of Academic Integrity in addition to the information provided on this website.

  • How can I check for plagiarism in my own work?

    Ask yourself: Does my work draw upon the intellectual work of other people? If the answer is "yes" or "partly," then you must acknowledge your debt by documenting your sources.

  • What is a source?

    There are two basic types of academic sources: Primary and Secondary.

    Primary Sources

    There are many different types of primary sources, these include:

    The text(s) or work(s) that you are discussing (e.g. a sonnet by William Shakespeare; an opera by Mozart)

    Actual data or research results (e.g. a scientific article presenting original findings; statistics)

    Historical documents (e.g. letters, pamphlets, political tracts, manifestoes)

    Secondary Sources

    Secondary Sources are works that discuss your primary source (e.g. an article analyzing Shakespeare’s sonnets; a review of an opera performance; a textbook that synthesizes research in a particular field; a newspaper editorial expressing an opinion on a political manifesto.)

    All primary and secondary sources in whatever format must be properly documented wherever you use them in your work.

  • What is the difference between documentation, citation, and reference?

    There is considerable overlap in how people use terms like document, cite, reference, quote, and the like. For the sake of consistency here, we will define these terms as follows: documentation is the general practice of acknowledging sources by clearly indicating what you have borrowed and giving the proper bibliographic information for each source

    A citation occurs when you use a specific source in your work and then follow up with the proper bibliographic information; plagiarism issues arise when you use a specific source, but fail to indicate what you have borrowed, and/or fail to provide proper bibliographic information.

    A reference is the bibliographic information that guides readers to your source.

  • Why should I document sources?

    Documenting sources serves two main purposes. Documentation acknowledges the original source and gives credit where credit is due and it allows readers to track down your source and determine the validity of your claims.

  • How do I document sources?

    Check with your instructor on how sources should be documented for your particular class or assignment. As a quick introduction, go to the Cornell libraries guide to Academic Integrity and Citations.

    Generally, you should describe your source as fully and accurately as possible for the benefit of readers. Depending on the type of source, the information required may include the title, author, editor, translator, volume number, issue number, publisher, place of publication, year of publication, page numbers, URL, and other descriptors.

    There are three commonly used ways of organizing your citations:

    MLA (Modern Language Association) is used mostly in the humanities. This style commonly uses parenthetical citations within the text, followed by a “Works Cited” list at the end that includes entries only for works cited

    Chicago is used mostly in history and in some of the humanities subjects. This style commonly uses footnotes or endnotes, followed by a “Bibliography” at the end that includes entries for works cited or consulted.

    APA (American Psychological Association) is used mostly in the social and natural sciences. This style commonly uses parenthetical citations within the text, followed by a “References” list at the end that includes entries for works cited.

    Detailed guidelines for these and other methods of documentation can also be found in style guides and writing handbooks available at many bookstores.

  • When do I need to document sources?

    If you use any external sources in your work, you must document every instance where you do so. This includes instances of direct and indirect citation

    Direct Citation is when you quote a source directly, word for word, or reproducing source material without alteration(e.g. diagrams, charts, other audio-visual material)

    Indirect Citation is when you reproduce part or all of someone else’s ideas in your own words (commonly known as paraphrasing), when you use or summarize someone else’s research, when you use facts or data that are not common knowledge, and when you reproduce source material in slightly altered form while retaining the main idea or structure.

    Both direct and indirect citations require proper documentation. Quotations, in particular, must be enclosed within quotation marks or set off in a block quote.

  • How can I avoid plagiarism?

    Any submitted work is assumed to be your own except where you have clearly indicated and documented the use of external sources. The following steps will help you differentiate your own ideas from the ideas of others.
    As you are preparing for an assignment
    —Make a list of all sources as you consult them. This includes websites that you come across while searching for a particular topic or just surfing. Write down all necessary bibliographic information immediately. Not only will this strategy save time and effort later, but it will also help prevent your forgetting which sources you’ve consulted.
    —Keep track of which ideas and phrases come from which source. Use quotation marks precisely around phrases directly cited from a source. Write down page numbers.
    —Clearly distinguish your own ideas from those of others. Don’t mix your own opinions into notes taken from another source.
    As you write
    —Set off direct citations with quotation marks or indenting
    —Clearly indicate where an external source begins and ends.
    —Where necessary, attach a list at the end where full bibliographic entries can be found.
    Before you submit an assignment
    —Check thoroughly that you’ve properly documented all direct and indirect citations.
    —Consult with your instructor if you have questions.