Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

High-Risk Situations

Avoiding plagiarism means avoiding high risk situations. The following list is adopted from Gordon Harvey’s Writing With Sources:


  1. Don’t wait until the last minute to write an essay.
  2. If you feel panicked about finishing a paper, let your instructor know.
  3. Use secondary sources only if asked to do so by the instructor.
  4. Don’t rely too heavily on a single source of information or opinion because it may lead you into unconsciously plagiarizing the plan or ideas of the original.
  5. In taking notes, be careful to distinguish the source’s idea from your own response to the source by quoting directly (using quotation marks) and indicating the source and page number next to each quotation or note (never take notes loosely or anonymously). Establish a system for distinguishing your insights from those of the source.
  6. Don’t feel that you have to sound as learned as the sources you are reading.
  7. Don’t look at another student’s paper when you are blocked.
  8. Don’t write from someone else’s notes, since you don’t know precisely the source of each idea.
  9. Don’t actually write a paper in tandem with another student, unless the essay is explicitly defined as a group project.
  10. If you encounter an idea you already thought of in a source, mention the source in your argument in a subordinate clause (“My claim, like Dennett’s, is that …”), but also try to show how your take on the question is somewhat different.
  11. Hold onto drafts and notes until an essay is completed.