Writing Integrity in the Digital Age: Attribution, Plagiarism and Ethical Authorship, Part 2

Part 1 of this article appeared in the December issue of the HSLS Update, and listed resources about copyright, ownership and fair use. Part 2 will explore resources to assist in ethical authorship and avoiding plagiarism.

Attribution is giving “intellectual credit” to an author’s work, words, or ideas that appear in another published or unpublished work. Not only is attribution a requirement of copyright law, it is “widely regarded as a sign of decency and respect to acknowledge the creator by giving him/her credit for their work.”1 Authors give attribution by using citations, references, footnotes and/or bibliographies. This process is also referred to as citing.

The reason authors cite is to allow the reader to locate information that is quoted or paraphrased from the work of other scholars, enabling the reader to verify interpretations, arguments or findings, and to explore the topic further.2

Authors are expected to provide attribution when they:

  • quote or paraphrase
  • borrow ideas
  • reference another work, including their own
  • use facts published as part of another’s original research
  • use or adapt images, tables, and lists created by another

Authors are also expected to cite when someone else’s work was essential in formulating their ideas. Information from government sites and other works within the public domain should also be cited when copied or paraphrased.3

It is sometimes necessary for authors to request written permission from the copyright holder before citing. Permission is required under the following circumstances:

  • when fair use is exceeded
  • when information from unpublished works or data [i.e., correspondence letters, emails, data sets, lab notes, etc.] is used
  • when copying or adapting an image, list, photograph, etc. from another’s work.

Respiratory Care’s “Preparing the Manuscript” provides useful examples of publishers’ expectations of citing with permission.

Plagiarism is when an author fails to cite appropriately. To avoid plagiarism, it is important to understand its definition and its relationship to academic integrity. University of Pittsburgh Policy 11-01-01: Research Integrity provides the following definition: “Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.”…“Research Misconduct is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism…. Plagiarism in any scholarly publication constitutes misconduct …”

Plagiarism can take many forms, including self plagiarism, sharing plagiarism, skipping plagiarism, “slabbing” plagiarism and “snipping” plagiarism.4-5

Plagiarism may be deliberate and intentional, as when one author copies another author’s work and passes it off as their own. Or plagiarism may be unintentional, resulting from careless paraphrasing and or citing of source material.6

To cite appropriately and to avoid plagiarism, explore the helpful suggestions and resources below:

Keep a careful record of sources by using bibliographic and writing management resources:

Refer to the publication style manuals listed below:

Consult HSLS e-books on Writing and Research, including:

Become familiar with University of Pittsburgh’s guidelines:

Be aware of guidelines for publishers and editors:

Take a tutorial:


1Attribution (copyright), Wikipedia.
2A Guide to Citing Sources in Classics General Guidelines & Frequently Asked Questions, Department of Classics, Haverford College.
3What is a citation?, Plagiarism.org.
4McKillup S, McKillup R. An assessment strategy that pre-empts plagiarism. International Journal for Educational Integrity 3, no. 3 (Apr 2007):18-26.
5Duplicate publications or submissions: an ethical misconduct. [Editorial] J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol 26, no. 22 (2010):139-142.
6Guide to Plagiarism and Cyber-Plagiarism, University of Alberta Libraries.

~ Charles Wessel