Frequently Asked Questions

Is it plagiarism if you copy and paste information from a website and use it without quotation marks in your writing?

Yes, this is plagiarism. It is the most well-known form of plagiarism because when you copy from another source you must use quotation marks and cite the source.

Be sure to follow the instructions of each assignment. Some professors may prefer you to use information from some websites but not others, and other professors may prefer you not to use any information from websites. Professors may also have particular instructions and guidelines to follow when citing outside sources, so it is best to reference each assignment’s instructions and/or consult with your professor if you have questions.

Is it a violation of policy to take an author’s idea without citing his or her work?

Yes, because even if you paraphrase an author’s words, you need to reference his or her work.

Developing original ideas, academic and other, often starts with consulting and using the work of others and then building upon their thoughts. Often, assignments will ask you to use and synthesize authors’ ideas to create your own. Even in these circumstances when you use the ideas of others to generate your own ideas, it is necessary to cite those works.

Is it plagiarism if you claim another student’s idea or writing as your own?

Yes, as Barnard students we have agreed to uphold the Barnard Honor Code, and therefore, our academic community does not permit (stealing) the work of another student without attributing reference to that individual.

When collaborating with peers on assignments, first ensure that the professor allows for you to work with others. When working together on individual assignments, be mindful of the fact that you are responsible for generating your own ideas and original work.

What is acceptable paraphrasing?

In writing papers, you will paraphrase more than you will quote. For a report or research paper, you may need to gather background information that is important to the paper but not worthy of direct quotation. Indeed, in much academic and technical writing direct quotation is rarely used.

Exactly what does “paraphrase” mean?  It means taking the words of another source and restating them, using your own vocabulary. In this way, you keep the meaning of the original text, but do not copy its exact wording.

There are several strategies to paraphrasing:

  • Use synonyms for all words that are not generic. Words like world, food, or science are so basic to our vocabulary that it is difficult to find a synonym.
  • Change the structure of the sentence
  • Change the voice from active to passive and vice versa
  • Change clauses to phrases and vice versa
  • Change parts of speech

What is acceptable summarizing?

A summary is a synthesis of the key ideas of a piece of writing, restated in your own words -- i.e., paraphrased. You may write a summary as a stand-alone assignment or as part of a longer paper.

How do I summarize?   A good summary:

  • Identifies the writer of the original text
  • Synthesizes the writer’s key ideas.
  • Presents the information neutrally.

Summaries can vary in length. Follow the directions given by your instructor for how long a summary should be.

Is it plagiarism if you submit all or part of one essay for two different assignments or to two different professors? For example, is it plagiarism to use a paragraph from one essay in an essay for a different class?

Yes, this is considered plagiarism.  The presentation of one’s own previous written work as though it were new is self plagiarism

When wanting to use past work for a current assignment, you must always consult with and get permission from your professor to do so, regardless of whether the work is from the same class, a different class, a high school class, or any other arena where you may have composed a piece of writing. Some assignments require students to use past work and build upon it, but if your professor does not explicitly say you may use a piece of writing from the past, refrain from doing so when completing an assignment.  The purpose of self-citation is to acknowledge that the current assignment is an original contribution of your academic work. The general view is that while previously written work can be expanded upon, it should not constitute the main contribution of the current work.

Is it sufficient to only include a Works Cited list at the end of the essay?

No, you should also include citations within the text of your essay. Works Cited lists refer to these citations.

It is important to reference the individual assignment instructions to determine whether the assignment asks you to refer to outside sources.  And, if so, what the professor’s expectations are regarding citations and a Works Cited list. There are multiple citation methods that scholars utilize depending on their field of study, and often, citation methods will vary between your classes. There are a number of different manuals that you may reference to assist you with generating citations and Work Cited lists. Please visit the Barnard College Library webpage for additional information and resources:

Can you ever incorporate facts without citations?

Broadly speaking, common knowledge refers to information that the average, educated reader would accept as reliable without having to look up.

This includes:

  • Information that most people know, such as that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or that Barack Obama was the first American of mixed race to be elected president.    
  • Information shared by a cultural or national group, such as the names of famous heroes or events in the nation’s history that are remembered and celebrated.
  • Knowledge shared by members of a certain field, such as the fact that the necessary condition for diffraction of radiation of wavelength from a crystalline solid is given by Bragg’s law.

However, what may be common knowledge in one culture, nature, academic discipline or peer group may not be common knowledge in another.

To help you decide whether information can be considered common knowledge, ask yourself:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What can I assume they already know?
  • Will I be asked where I obtained my information?

When in doubt, it is always better to include a citation. You may also consult your professor or a reference librarian if you have general or specific questions about citing information.

What Electronic Resources Require Citation?

Do not assume the information you find on the Internet is common knowledge. Everything on the Internet has been written by someone and typically needs to be cited. Simply including a URL is not enough. Even if there is no visible author, there is other information that should be included in the citation. Consult your citation style guide on how to cite electronic sources, including social media posts.

If I put information that I have found into an infographic or chart do I still need to cite it?

Yes. If it is not your information, you need to attribute it to the source. This is the same as putting ideas into your own words.

And citation of print sources?

All print sources, including books, journal articles, newspapers -- any material published or written on paper.


  • All citations should refer to sources you have read, therefore cite the current source even if it references a historical author (unless you go directly to the original text for your research).
  • Your professor will provide specific recommendations on citation format for class material, however it is your responsibility to clarify the standard in each class of lecture or course textbook material.

On a lab report or assignment that requires I include a graph or chart, can I use another’s graphic because it would look the same as doing it on my own?

Often, when writing lab reports, the purpose of having you create graphs or charts is so that you engage in the process of creating original work. Even if the chart you create may look the same as one that has already been created by another individual, you still should create your own, as it demonstrates that you are capable of creating your own graphic using data.

For other assignments or projects it is best to follow the instructions of the assignment and/or consult with your professor. Some professors may allow you to use graphics of others, but others may require you to develop your own visuals.

Can you collaborate with a classmate on developing ideas for an essay without referencing that classmate later?

Most likely, your professor expects that your ideas and work are entirely your own - therefore, you should absolutely ask your professor before collaborating with another peer.

Collaboration can be a key component of your Barnard education because:

  • Peer-to-peer learning helps you understand the subject better
  • Working in teams trains you for collaborative work you will do in your profession
  • Crediting others for their contribution to your work promotes ethical practice

By working with other students on projects, labs and papers, you carry on a long tradition of contributing to the knowledge that will shape the future of our world.

Be sure you understand the collaboration policy for each of your classes.

  • The accepted level of collaboration, as well as the specific requirements for documenting your collaborative efforts, varies greatly from class to class, even within the same department. Instructors determine the collaboration policy for each class.
  • Do not assume you know the collaboration policy. If the policy is not clearly described in the online course materials or in a class handout, ask your instructor how much collaboration is permitted. Make sure you know where to draw the line between collaboration and what could be considered cheating. When in doubt, ask your professor.


Keep in mind that the sharing and discussions of ideas in the collaboration process is separate of the final individual writing and work process.

  • Peer-editing: When you peer edit, your goal is to read the draft, write down comments in the margins and then discuss your paper and your ideas with the author of the assignment. Once again, this collaboration process is separate of the final individual writing and work process.  
  • Use technology wisely. While the internet enables new forms of collaboration, the standard methods of collaboration and original individual work still apply.

What is proper care for print and electronic resources?

It is important that all students have equal opportunities to access print and electronic resources. This requires that all of these materials are maintained in proper condition, with no damage to print (highlighting, underlining or pages missing) or electronic resources (blocking, disabling, or altering the technology or its content, etc).

  • The maintenance of materials applies to shared academic resources: :
  • Library books, textbooks and articles
  • CDs, DVDs, and other audio, visual and digital materials
  • Computers, laptops and technology, including printing resources
  • Laboratory, studio equipment and materials

Beyond Copying...

Whether because of high demands on your time or uncertainty about your academic capabilities, you may be tempted to cheat in your academic work. While copying is the most prevalent form of cheating, dishonest behavior includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Changing the answers on an exam for re-grade
  • Misrepresenting a family or personal situation to get an extension
  • Using unsanctioned resources during a test or other academic work
  • Using unauthorized materials in preparation for an exam or assignment
  • Forging a faculty or staff member’s signature on a permission form or add/drop form (please see the Code of Conduct guide for additional cases)
  • Falsifying data or claiming to have done research you did not do
  • Claiming work of others as your own by not citing them
  • Assisting another student in doing any of the above

If you observe another student cheating, you are encouraged to report this to your instructor or supervisor, contact the Dean’s Office,  submit on online report at via the information report submission, or reach out to the Barnard Honor Board (

What resources can I use to help with my citation?

Please click here for information about resources available for help with citations.

I’m feeling stressed out! How can I seek help?

Please click here for information about resources available to you.


*These Q&A tips were adapted from material provided by MIT regarding academic integrity, used with permission.