Research Phase Four: Understanding Plagiarism and Citing Sources

Contributor: Emily Love. Lesson ID: 10479

"You took the words right out of my mouth!" Without permission, that's plagiarism, or stealing! Using video, a style manual, and articles, learn how to correctly cite information from other sources!


Writing, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Go to the Fact Monster site to take the Kids Movie Quotes Quiz. See how well you remember who said what!

This is the fourth of five lessons in the series, Research. If you missed a lesson or want a refresher, find the Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar.

Why does it matter that we remember to attribute a work to its creator? Because someone took the time to think of those ideas, images, and words, we should be sure to give them credit for their creativity. Plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else's work or idea and passing it off as your own. People can be guilty of plagiarism if they do this on purpose or by accident. There are three terms you need to understand in order to avoid committing the crime of plagiarism:

  1. Common knowledge Information that is widely accepted as fact, so no source needs to be provided when using common knowledge in writing; for example, Washington, DC, is the capital of the United States.
  2. Paraphrasing The practice of putting information that you read into your own words. You still credit the source that provides the information on your Works Cited page. This is the most common method of sharing information gained through research and the best way to avoid plagiarism.
  3. Citation The credit given to authors when directly quoting their words, in the form of a short note that specifically identifies the author of the source.

Watch this short video entitled, What is plagiarism and how to avoid it, created by the Brock Library, that provides a recap of these terms:

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In the cases where you do use a direct quotation from one of your resources, you have two choices for telling your reader who wrote the quote. You can write the author's name in the sentence, or you can use an in-text citation. Check out these examples from "Monarchs Make a Comeback," from

  1. Jennifer Marino Walters says that the monarch butterflies are making a comeback because the "U.S. has made efforts to plant more milkweed and to decrease the use of herbicides."
  2. The monarch butterflies are making a comeback because the "U.S. has made efforts to plant more milkweed and to decrease the use of herbicides" (Marino Walters).

When writing research papers, your last page will always be your Works Cited page, also known as a bibliography. On this page, you will write a short citation about each information source from which you took information for your paper. You will put them in alphabetical order by the authors' last names. Refer to the Research and Style Manual, created by Kathy Schrock, to find the way to cite your sources for your grade level (3–5). You can also use the website Citation Machine to create your citations. It will guide you through a series of questions to help you create your citation, then copy it into your research paper.

Check out these pictures demonstrating how to create the citation using Citation Machine for the article by Ms. Marino Walters referenced above:

Remember, even if you paraphrase a source, you must include it in the final Works Cited page!

Continue on to the Got It? section to practice citing sources!

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