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Academic Integrity - Academic Writing

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This guide is part of Academic Integrity at Macalester College. For more information about our academic integrity program, please contact Ginny Moran (

Materials here are available for reuse under a Creative Commons  Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA license.



Representing another person’s written work as your own is probably the most frequently discussed and most easily understood form of plagiarism. In the context of a traditional research paper this can take a variety of forms, but often looks like intentional copying or poor paraphrasing without providing references to the source material.

Your work has value. This is a good reason to distinguish it from the work of others. When writing it should be clear what words and ideas are yours and what is the work of someone else. Here are a few practices you should follow to distinguish your work:

  • Use quotations when the specific words you are quoting are what is most important. Use punctuation and formatting that make it apparent when words are not your own.

  • Summarize and paraphrase when the ideas you are referencing are what is important more than the specific words. One strategy can be to offer a quotation, followed by, "In other words,..." where you offer your understanding and restatement of the concept. Try stating ideas without looking directly at source material, or imagine that you are explaining the idea to a friend. Do not have many words in common with the source(s) where you found the information.

  • Always cite your sources, whether quoting or paraphrasing.

Proper Documentation

Always cite your sources. Any idea, unique fact, or creative expression (such as a quote or an image) that is not your own, you should tell your audience where you found it. This will bolster your own claims by putting your work in context and enable further exploration by enabling readers to track down your sources and examine them in more detail. Our citation guide has more help on using the most common citation styles. Your professors, class preceptors, and librarians can also help you determine when a reference is needed.

What Happens Next?

What Happens Next?

The What Happens Next video series introduces scenarios that relate to academic integrity. They can be used as conversation starters to help students better understand the dilemmas that might arise during their time in college, and problem-solving skills to avoid plagiarism.

Case Studies

Informal Case Studies:
Macalester Students Tell Their Stories...

Mac students who were found to have violated the College's academic integrity policy agreed to share their experience through brief essays. These 'informal case studies' ask the students to discuss their violation, what led up to it, as well as identify lessons learned.

        Improper Attribution & Time Management
        International Student Struggles