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Academic Integrity: Avoiding Plagiarism and Understanding Research Ethics: Academic Writing

This guide contains slides and information corresponding with the Academic Integrity @ Pitt: Workshops for International Graduate Students series.

Source Materials: Going Back to the Original Source

When doing your research, it is important to follow the information back to the original source. The first source/author we read does not necessarily =  the “original” source of information.

For example, if you are reading an article by Taylor, and in the article Taylor makes a reference to a study done by Jones, it is necessary to track down Jones' study. Then, you can look at Jones' research yourself and make sure it is credible, reliable, and that Taylor has accurately interpreted Jones' work. Continue following the citations back to the original source of information.

Taylor cites Jones-->Jones cites Krugman-->Krugman cites a study by the Environmental Protection Agency

Here is another example. If you are reading an article in a newspaper, pay careful attention to where the reporter is getting her information. How does she know solar energy is gaining popularity in the United States? Is she referring to a report, a journal article, a website? If you use that newspaper article in your research, you must find and cite the original report or article.

Why is this so important?

First, by reading the full text of the original source, you can verify that the context of the quote supports the point you want to make.

Second, by finding and reading the original source, you will become better informed about your research topic.

Above quote from: Secondary Sources (aka How to Cite a Source You Found in Another Source), Timothy McAdoo. May 20, 2010.


A paraphrase is...

  • your own rendition of essential information and ideas expressed by someone else, now presented (by you) in a new form.
  • one legitimate way (when accompanied by accurate citation) to use information from a source.

Paraphrasing is a valuable skill because...

  • it helps you control the temptation to quote too much.
  • the mental process required for successful paraphrasing helps you to grasp the full meaning of the original.

Steps to Effective Paraphrasing:

  • Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning
  • Check your rendition with the original to make sure that your version accurately expresses all the essential information in a new form
  • Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or phraseology you have borrowed exactly from the source
  • Note/record the source (including the page); you must cite paraphrased material

Adapted from OWL, Paraphrase, Write it in Your own Words

Paraphrase example

Ladewig, B., Jiang, S. P., & Yan, Y. (Eds.). (2014). New Materials for Sustainable Energy and Development: Materials for Low-Temperature Fuel Cells. Somerset, NJ: Wiley. Retrieved from
Original text:
 Fuel cells represent a potentially integral technology in a greener electricity based energy economy. Converting chemical energy directly into electricity with no moving parts and no particulate or greenhouse gas emissions at point of operation, they can offer higher efficiencies than combustion and greater energy storage and reduced “ charge ” times compared with batteries. While they retain few of the disadvantages of existing electricity generation technologies, a major barrier to commercialization and widespread use at present is cost. (This text from page 3)
“Good” paraphrase
 The prohibitively high cost of fuel cells is a detraction from this otherwise efficient and environmentally-friendly fuel source (Ladewig, 2014).
  • Includes citation information
  • Restates the idea of the original text in simpler form
 “Bad” paraphrase
 While fuel cells represent a potentially integral technology in our economy, a major barrier to widespread use is the cost.
  • No citation information
  • Copies exact phrases of the original