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LTEA 120A Chinese Films: New Chinese-Language Documentaries – Aesthetics, Politics and Ethics: Avoiding Plagiarism

When Do You Cite?

Flow diagram for: When do you cite? Question 1: Did you think of it?  Answer 1: Yes, then do not cite it Answer 2: No, then Question 2. Question 2: Is it common knowledge? Answer 1: Yes, then do not cite it. Answer 2: No, then cite it.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism can be unintentional or intentional when ideas, text, and creative work are used but not cited in academic, professional, and personal work. Common forms of plagiarism can include:

  • Passing off another’s ideas or work as your own
  • Fabricating citations
  • Copying, cutting and pasting without citing the original source
  • Paraphrasing incorrectly
  • Using media files, such as image, audio or video files, without citing them
  • Forgetting to cite another's work

4 Steps to Successful Paraphrasing

  1. Read the entire text, underlining key points and main ideas.

  2. In your own words, write a sentence about the main idea of the text (i.e. summarize). Also, write key points in the text.

  3. Highlight any words, phrases, or key passages that you would want to quote directly.

  4. Combine the above into a new paraphrased paragraph, using your own words.

For more on paraphrasing, citing, and plagiarism, watch the video from Excelsior Library.

Tips to Avoid Plagiarism

Consider using tools to help organize your research and keep your information in one place. Try keeping track of what you're quoting or paraphrasing in a “research journal.” Some great suggestions for free, online options at:

If you just want to track your citations (without notes), use online tools like Zotero (

  • Cite your sources (direct quotes and paraphrasing) as you write your rough draft. Refer back to your research journal for accuracy.
  • Use style guides to cite in the correct format. Ask a librarian about how can save you time!
  • When in doubt, cite it! Cite all outside sources except for common knowledge.

If you still have questions about when to cite, check with your instructor.