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Copyright, Citations, and References

Do you know what copyright is? Do you know how copyright violation is different from plagiarism? It is possible to violate copyright, but not commit plagiarism, and vice versa -- it is up to you to understand the difference and to advoid both problems.

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As a general rule you may not copy, display, modify or distribute someone else's copyrighted work. You are required to get permission. Without the permission from the author, it is considered copyright infringement.

As a student, copyright laws impact what you can copy and how you can use those materials, whether it is a journal article or a graphic from a web site. Copyright laws can be complex and in Canada is in the process of being updated, but ignorance of the law is no defence for misappropriating information. If you are unsure about how to use class materials, contact your instructor.

At the bottom of the front page or home page of most Web sites, there is usually a copyright symbol protecting the content. For example, refer to the bottom of this page to see the copyright information.

Before you borrow any image, page or text, make sure you are aware of the copyright implications. 

Follow this link For more information about Canadian copyright laws,

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How is this different from plagiarism?

Plagiarism is incorporating someone else's work or ideas into your own without properly crediting the original author. This may be copying part or all of a work, omitting quotations marks where necessary, and/or failing to reference the original work. Even incorporating someone else's idea into your work without credit is considered plagiarism.

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It's now easier than ever to check a student's work for plagiarized passages. Many colleges and universities, including UOIT, use plagiarism detection tools like The service is able to match text from a student's paper against billions of resources found on the Internet. The teacher submits the paper, passage or sentence into and within minutes, the service returns a plagiarism report that includes all the online resources that were used to prepare the paper whether they have cited or not. The comparison includes works from journals, Web sites, paper mills (sites that sell papers to students) and other student papers. Don't be fooled by sites that say they will sell you an original essay. Last year, three UOIT students were caught submitting identical "original" essays into the same professor.

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When to cite

The best way to avoid plagiarism problems in academic writing is to give credit to the person whose ideas or words you have used. This includes information or words that you may have used from a magazine, song, movie, advertisement or any other media. 

If you interview someone and are referring to the information or data gained from the interview, you need to cite that interview. This includes information that you may have gained from an email or in a conversation with another.

When you are paraphrasing an author's work, ensure that you don't use the unique phrasing that the author has used. Unique phrasing is easily traced back to the original writer. If the unique phrasing enhances the point you wish to make, you must put the words in quotation marks and attribute the source.

If you use any charts, diagrams, or pictures, even in PowerPoint presentations, you must cite the source of the image. Some images are covered by copyright laws, particularly if you grab the image off the Internet. Just because the image is easy to download to your computer, doesn't mean you have the right to use it.

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When you don't need to cite

That being said, there are times when you don't have to cite or give credit. This usually occurs when using information considered "common knowledge." Common knowledge is generally accepted facts or information, for example, the world is round, or there are 60 minutes in an hour. Common knowledge can extend to folklore, or generally shared information within a particular group. Another rule of thumb is that if you can find the fact or information in three different places, it is considered common knowledge.

You don't need to cite when you are writing about your own observations or insights. If you are reflecting on your own experiences, citation is not necessary. If you are developing your own conclusions about a particular subject, you don't have to cite. If you are writing up the results of your own experiment, you don't need to cite. These are your experiences and data and you are the author of this new information.

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