Basic Rules for Avoiding Plagiarism
The Golden Rule for Avoiding PlagiarismGive Credit Where Credit is Due
Basically, there is only one way to avoid plagiarismgive credit to a source whenever you use information that is not your own unless it is common knowledge. If you come up with an idea all on your own, you don't have to give credit to anyone, except yourself. Also, if you are writing about something that is common knowledge, you dont have to give a citation for your source.
Common knowledge is whatever information you and your reader are likely to know without referring to some other source. For example, there are 435 U.S. Congress Members and 100 U.S. Senators. That's probably common knowledge. How many of the Congress Members and Senators are Democrats, Republicans, or from other political parties, may or may not be common knowledge, depending on you and your reader(s). The more likely both you and your reader(s) are to know that information, and especially the more controversial a fact or idea is, the more likely it is to be common knowledge. How many votes any particular member of the House or the Senate got in the last election is probably not common knowledge. If the number of votes a candidate received is part of your paper, you should probably cite the source.
The best rule of thumb to determine whether or not to give credit to a source for information that might be common knowledge is, "When in doubt, give the source." It is always better to err on the safe side.
Cite Your Sources
When should you cite a source? You should give credit to a source whenever you use someone else's work or idea that is not common knowledge. This includes any time you use or refer to information that comes from
As stated above, the bottom line is that you have to provide a source citation for every use of another person's words or ideas unless the information is common knowledge.