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Choosing a Research Paper Topic


International Student Orientation 3

Plagiarism occurs when students claim or submit as their own original work, the research, ideas, or writings of another without acknowledging and clearly identifying the source, all without regard to the quantity of material used.  Examples of plagiarism include copying, summarizing, or paraphrasing another’s work without proper attribution.  It is not a defense to plagiarism that there was no intent to deceive, to misrepresent, or to gain any unfair advantage.

University of St. Thomas School of Law Academic Policy, Section III-D-1: Academic Misconduct

Citation (Plagiarism) Mistakes to Avoid


See Rule 5.1 in Bluebook – block quotations (50 or more words).

  • Giving proper citations to sources and authorities is the most important aspect of avoiding plagiarism in legal writing.
  • Take careful notes – keep track of sources!

Suggestions for attribution of sources (as set out by Professors Fajans & Falk, in Scholarly Writing for Law Students)

  1. Provide a footnote for borrowed language, facts or ideas whether quoted or paraphrased in your text.
  2. When you borrow seven consecutive words or more, use quotation marks (or block quote for more than 50 words).
  3. Where wording is distinctive, it is appropriate to use quotation marks for fewer than seven words.
  4. In addition to providing an attribution footnote for paraphrases, introduce the borrowed material with some reference to its source.
  5. If you find a source through other sources, good research practice requires you to look up the cited source.  You should also footnote the citing source as well as the cited source if the citer’s use of the cited source is original.
  6. Attribution footnotes should always be included in your very first draft.  If you wait until the revision stage, paraphrased material may escape attribution altogether, causing inadvertent (but inexcusable) plagiarism.  

Rules from the Legal Writing Institute:

  1. Acknowledge direct use of someone else’s words.
  2. Acknowledge any paraphrase of someone else’s words.
  3. Acknowledge direct use of someone else’s idea.
  4. Acknowledge a source when your own analysis or conclusion builds on that source.
  5. Acknowledge a source when your idea about a legal opinion came from a source other than the opinion itself.

Plagiarism Resources Online

Law School Plagiarism v. Proper Attribution
This publication from the Legal Writing Institute discusses, with examples, plagiarism and how and when to properly cite an author.

The Writer's Handbook: Avoiding Plagiarism
From the University of Wisconsin Madison, this publication covers plagiarism and how to properly quote and paraphrase.

Safe Practices
Purdue's Online Writing Lab has created a guide of best practices for avoiding plagiarism.