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Prosecution Function

"When in Doubt" Rule

The General Rule to follow to avoid plagiarizing is “when in doubt, cite the source. ”Use the links on this page to familiarize yourself with plagiarism and how to avoid it. Always remember, if you have a question about what to cite in your research, ask the instructor of your course or ask a law librarian. It is so easy to ask for help and avoid plagiarism.


What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism, as defined on the University of Akron Office of General Counsel web page, “is the intentional or unintentional use of the words or ideas of another without acknowledging their source.”  Source Code of student conduct of the University of Akron 3359-41-01.  Deliberate and accidental plagiarism are treated the same by the University and the School of Law.  The University places the responsibility on the students to know what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. 


Most students know to cite the source when they directly quote from another work, but did you know that the following are also examples of plagiarizing? 


  • Substituting synonyms for words used from another work without acknowledging the source. This is called “Word Switch Plagiarism.”
  • Rearranging words, phrases, or sentences without properly citing the work. This is another example of "Word Switch Plagiarism".
  • Summarizing or paraphrasing from another work without properly citing the source.
  • Paraphrasing in a way to change the author's meaning of the passage used.
  • Using the same organizational structure as another source without properly acknowledging the source. This is called "Organizational Plagiarism."
  • Using another’s creative idea or solution to a problem without acknowledging the source.This is called “Idea Plagiarism.

Law students caught plagiarizing will be violating the Law School’s Student Disciplinary Code and will be subject to proceedings under the Code.   Consequences can be severe and may include dismissal from the University.

What does not need citing?

Common knowledge

  • If you can find the same information undocumented in at least five credible sources.
  • Information that the average adult will already know.  Example: humans normally have two arms and two legs. 
  • If the information can be easily found in general reference sources.
  • Examples: folklore, myths, urban legends, common sense observations (like the sun rises in the east and sets in the west), and historical events (but not historical documents).

Your opinions, your ideas and your work

  • Your own lived experiences, your observations, your own thoughts.
  • Your own artwork, photographs, video, audio, etc.  (…but you still must cite your previous written work).

Generally Accepted Facts

  • Examples: pollution is bad; writing is a process.


Purpose of Citations

"The central function of a legal citation is to allow the reader to efficiently locate the cited source."

Source: The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (Columbia Law Review Ass'n et al. eds., 19th ed. 2010).

Additional Purposes:

1.  Helps the reader to find more information or to locate the work cited.

2.  Gives the writer credibility.  Is the work well researched?  Did you cite the critical authorities relevant to your issue?

3.  Helps the writer avoid plagiarism.  You must give credit to the creator of the information.  Conversely, you cannot claim credit for something you did not create.

CALI Lessons on Plagiarism

Click here for information about the CALI authorization code for UA Law students.

For University of Akron law students