Statement on Plagiarism


Plagiarism is dishonorable. It involves using the words, information, insights, or ideas of another without crediting that person through proper citation. Since authorship is ownership, using the intellectual property of others without credit is theft. Passing off another person's work as your own is lying. You can avoid plagiarism by fully and openly crediting all sources used.

Anytime you use someone else's words in your paper, those words (phrases, sentences, paragraphs) should be rendered in quotation marks, and cited by a footnote. If you decide to use someone else's words in any form, you must use quotations in order to show that you are borrowing the same.  For further reference concerning the proper way to footnote, see the History Department's Guidelines for Referencing Papers


Parallelism means paraphrasing material but keeping a source’s argumentation and paragraph structure. This is not acceptable. Not only words and phrases and sentences require footnotes. If you borrow someone else's ideas, you must also acknowledge the fact by a footnote. Even if you cite another person's ideas in your own words you must indicate this with a footnote or it constitutes plagiarism.

Give credit where credit is due. You wouldn’t want people to steal your property - - don’t steal theirs. You will have to use other people's discoveries and concepts to write your paper, but build on them creatively. Do not compromise your honor by failing to acknowledge clearly where your work ends and that of someone else begins.

Footnotes. Your Safety Net and First Line of Defense. 

Footnoting and providing citations is not an admission that you don't know enough to write a term paper on your own. No scholar is so knowledgeable that he or she can write a research paper without consulting other scholars' research; all scholars rely on the work previously done by others. Instead, citations are proof that you have consulted the relevant literature and, therefore, know what you're talking about. Footnotes are ammunition, not admissions. Footnotes are your first line of defense against a plagiarism charge.

Footnoting is an indispensable part of a term paper in any history course. Footnotes function as signposts to provenance, as indicators of the research that undergirds the paper. Readers want to know, "where did you get that statement?" "how do you know?" "is this your own idea?" The footnote helps answer these questions. The footnote should clearly show where you, the researcher and writer, got the information and data and ideas that form the substance of the paper (the book itself, the letter itself, etc.) Sources, either primary or secondary, that you have not personally consulted and used must not be cited because the rule is cite only what you have directly and personally used. Do not pad your bibliography with citations you haven't seen yourself.


  1. Provide proper citation for everything taken from others. These include interpretations, ideas, wording, insights, factual discoveries, charts, tables, or appendices that are not your own. Citations must clearly and explicitly guide the reader to the sources used, whether published, unpublished, or electronic. Cite a source each time you borrow from it. A single citation, concluding or followed by extended borrowing, is inadequate and misleading. 
  2. Indicate all use of another's words, even if they constitute only part of a sentence, with quotation marks and specific citation. Citations may be footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical references. 
  3. Paraphrase properly. Paraphrasing is a vehicle for conveying or explaining ideas borrowed from a source, and requires a citation to the original source. It captures the source's meaning and tone in your own words and sentence structure. In a paraphrase, the words are yours but the ideas are not. It cannot be used to create the impression of originality. 
  4. Facts widely available in reference books, newspapers, magazines, etc., are common knowledge and need no citation. Facts that are not common knowledge but are derived from the work of another must be cited. Interpretations and theories provide an author's assessment of a set of facts and commonly embody that author's opinion. The interpretations and theories of another must be cited in footnote, endnote, or parenthetical reference.
  5. Always err on the side of caution. When in doubt, CITE IT.

The History Department of VMI subscribes to the American Historical Association's current "Statement on Plagiarism and Related Misuses of the Work of Other Authors" in Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct.