The problem

Many students plagiarise unintentionally when they take 'word-for-word' notes from a source and then simply reproduce them in their assignments. 

The solution

  • To make sure that you don't accidentally plagiarise, take notes carefully.
  • Develop a system to distinguish between what you have copied directly from a source, what you have noted in your own words, and your own comments about the material.
  • Taking notes is not just writing down the words/ideas of others; you also need to record your own view of the material. Ask yourself:
    • Why am I taking down this information?
    • How am I going to use it?
    • What relationship does this material have with other sources I have read?
    • Do I understand what the writer is saying?
    • If not, why not?

Before you begin to take notes, record the bibliographic information for the source at the top of the page. Carefully note which source the material comes from and all the information needed for referencing that source. You don't want to try to retrace your reading the night before your paper is due just because you forgot to write down the necessary information the first time!

When taking notes from a source, try to write in your own words

  • Cover the original source, then relying on your memory, write a summary or paraphrase. Check your version with the original for accuracy and any phrases you may have accidentally reproduced.
  • Put any unique words or phrases that you can't change into quotation marks.
  • If you copy down the exact words from a source, make sure they are between quotation marks.

Use 'in-text' referencing in your notes 

During note taking, develop the habit of concluding each paragraph with the author's name and the page number between brackets. This will help you reference the information when you use it in an assignment. 

More about note-taking skills

Back to top