Plagiarism and “Assembling” or “Excerpting” papers

Plagiarism is not only when you quote something without proper referencing. It also includes what we might call “assembling” or “excerpting or selecting.” Academic integrity demands that when you submit a paper, it is not merely “assembled” from a few sources, or a succession of paragraphs “selected” or “excerpted” from them.


Sometimes there is a good deal to be said for papers which do so honestly and professionally, but only if the paper’s author states that he or she is doing so, and comments on the quotations or paraphrases. The point of a student paper is NOT to show that you can excerpt other people’s work. A guideline might be that no more than 1/3 is direct quotes, word for word; and a further 1/3 is close paraphrase. 1/3 has to be your own analysis or the way you compare and contrast the different views you have found.  This is an outer limit, not the goal: the goal is to have less than 1/3 as direct quotes.


Normally credit cannot be given to academic submissions plagiarized, assembled or excerpted. Normally such things need to be reported onwards to the Dean's Office although this is at the Instructor’s discretion.






In determining the length of a paper or essay, consider that a page is 200-300 words. When measuring writings by sentences or paragraphs, assume that a sentence is 10-25 words, and a paragraph is between 2/3 and ¾ of an average page (about 175 words or 7-10 sentences). 




What references need to show

Author, title, publication/date, location (usually page number)


Footnotes and endnotes generally show all of these at first mention. In-line references generally give a “brief reference” (usually author’s last name and publication date) and the page number, with the full reference in a reference list at the end of the paper.


Normally, a journal article reference would begin with the author’s name, and the item title in quotation marks. The name of the journal, with the issue number and date, would be the publication information. For books, the publication information is normally city, publisher and date. Location information is usually the page number unless a better system is available for determining the location. For example, in works that have many editions, give the edition you used, but the location information is usually not the page number but a chapter and verse, or a paragraph number, and act and scene, or, for encyclopedias, an entry name.


Emphasis vs. quotation marks for titles: Italics or underline are used for titles of books, journals or other items normally found, for example, in library or store catalogues as separate entries. Use quotation marks for individual articles, chapters, papers, etc. not published separately. The usual U.S. practice is to use “double quotes” for such items.



It is not of great concern to me what style you adopt for references. I have a slight preference for footnotes or endnotes (although not necessarily “Chicago/Turabian” style) as used in Arts, Humanities and not as used in sciences and social sciences, but in-text references are fine. In general, though, systems set up for referencing short scientific articles are ill-fitted to student research in the humanities.


The benefit of adopting a stylesheet such as APA or MLA or Chicago-Turabian is that they give good solutions for many issues, if you read through them. The problem is that many students apply a stylesheet without consideration of the actual solutions they provide.


Spacing: Normally, papers should be double-spaced, except for block quotes, even if they are submitted electronically.


Published materials:

Please try to include research published in reputable journals or by reputable publishers in your own research. Wikipedia and websites are very accessible and often this is extremely important for getting an initial handle on complex materials. Often this material is very well organized and facilitates development of a conceptual framework for your research. But research should not be limited to websites and non-published material unless you really know that material.


Page Numbers:

Give page numbers for published materials!


Citing a source anthologized in another source:

For a quote from a passage in an anthology, a reference librarian suggested

“…quote” (Rahman, 1982). (Waugh, Denny 1998)

In this case, it was a quote from a published book by Fazlur Rahman that appeared in an anthology of readings edited by Waugh and Denny.


This may or may not be the standard adopted by one or another of the various style sheets but it is not particularly elegant, and, does not indicate the page number in the Waugh, Denny book or in Rahman’s book. In this case, I wanted to check what Fazlur Rahman wrote, and had his book, but not the anthology.


The simplest way to do this type of thing accurately is with footnotes. If you are using in-line quotes you can do something like: (Rahman, 1982:pagenumber  in Waugh, Denny 1998:pagenumber). If you are using in-line notes you will have a reference list, and your reference list may show that Rahman 1982 piece is read in Waugh, Denny; in some cases you can indicate it as (Rahman 1982:pagenumber)—but the reference list should make it clear whether the page number is that of the original publication or the anthology.


Citing a source from a published article or book found on the internet:

An ideal way to cite a source such as Emanuel Ringelblum’s archives of Warsaw Ghetto life is as follows:


E. Ringelblum, Ksovim fun geto ("Notes from the Ghetto"), I, Warsaw, 1961-1963, pp. 359-360. Cited in (accessed May 10, 2006)


Note that Ksovim means “Notes” (more like letters or writings actually), and is not his first name. With resources in languages with which you are unfamiliar, this is sometimes a problem. The Library Catalogue, or the WorldCat database, may very often help you determine the name and dates of an author, the translation of a title, etc.


Last name first?


Only use “Last name first” style in strictly alphabetical lists, such as lists of works cited in a bibliography or at the end of a paper. In such cases, this is a convenience for the reader, but not strictly necessary unless there is a strict style guideline saying so.




  • A quotation from a book or journal article should be cited with page numbers.
  • The full reference should be given the first time mentioned, or given in a works cited list. After the first reference, the full information should be avoided. In footnotes or endnotes, a reference to the author’s last name and an abbreviated title usually suffice (with the location information for the specific reference of course). 
  • Reference facts that are not generally known. You do not need a reference for a fact like “The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776,” or “George W. Bush became President of the United States in 2001.” Sometimes this is a judgment call: Many students may not in fact know when George W Bush became president, but it’s still in the category of “generally known” information.   
  • Reference assessments of facts or conclusions about them. Ideally, the author whose assessment or conclusion you are referencing should be mentioned in the text itself, not only in the footnote or in-line note.
  • In general, a quote which is up to two sentences or about 40 words is done in-line. A quote longer than this length is generally done as a “block quote” and set off by one or more of the following: Indenting (left only or left and right), smaller font, less spacing between lines. (There are differences between style sheets regarding the maximum length before using the “block quote” style, and sometimes even single sentences from works such the Bible, Qur’an or Shakespeare are done as block quotes.)


According to the principle of avoiding needless repetition of reference materials, I wonder why style sheets often require the date of a resource to be repeated for in-text references after the first mention.  If dropping the date is not ambiguous—as it would not be if this is the only work by the author cited—it is silly to insist on the date of the work but not the page number of the reference! Where it is clear that a passage comments on a particular book (for example an analysis of a Shakespeare play), even the author reference is usually dropped in such circumstances. For footnotes or endnotes, generally the full reference is needed only at the first mention, after that a shortened reference is enough (such as Author last name only, a word or two from the title, and page: for example, Denny, Introduction, p. 34.).


Citing widely published works.

Bible, Qur’an, Josephus, many famous plays such as those by Shakespeare, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and many other works should not be referenced by page number but by standard references that would be the same no matter what edition. You should indicate the edition you actually used (for example, which translation of the Bible) but normally give references in the form “Genesis 1:1” or “Gen. 1:1.”  


I had a student mis-apply the reference system and gave a Bible reference in the form “God (2005) p. 34.” Don’t reference this way!


For well-known translations such as the King James Version or New Revised Standard Version, you can use the initials of the edition (KJV or NRSV). No page reference is usually needed for an entry in an encyclopedia or dictionary organized alphabetically, although it is often good to do so—Give the entry name unless it is completely obvious from the context.


Citing Wikipedia: Usually it’s just cited as Wikipedia.  The authorial field can be listed as Wikimedia Foundation, but usually this is unnecessary. Make sure you give the article name or complete URL, not just “” Unless you explicitly name the article, it will not be obvious to your readers which article you got the information from. Also, the Wikipedia works, it is best to note the date accessed, as Wikipedia articles change all the time. Wikipedia articles very often include footnote references which are easily followed—if so, it is best to go to the reference and cite from there.


Citing a source a second time when using footnotes or endnotes: After the first mention it’s not necessary to give the full reference; a short reference will do.





Foreign terms: Use emphasis (underline or italics) for non-English terms that are not in general use. 


Examples of things to watch for

“Homonyms”—words that sound the same but are spelled differently:

To, too and two.

It’s: Use for “it is” not “belonging to it”

Direct Descent vs. Direct dissent. (also, do not confuse “ancestors” and “descendants”!)

Peaked vs. piqued

Sight, site, cite

Verses vs. Versus


Write in full sentences. Sentences need a subject and a verb; verbs and subjects should agree.

Sentences should be coherent wholes: do not try to cram too many ideas into one sentence, but do not chop up one coherent idea into several short sentences either.


Spell check will not deliver you from error. My favorite example was a student who referred to “hot molten brass” and clearly had done spell-check, but omitted the last “s” of this phrase.


Genres of literature: A novel in general is a work of fiction. Do not refer to a history or a memoire as a novel! Use the term “novel” if the book you are describing is a book-length work of fiction, telling a story in narrative style (not a play or poem).  If it tells a book-length story of something that happened to the author, and appears to be accurate rather than fictional, it may be called a memoire.