What's plagiarism?

"The action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own; literary theft."1

Simply put, whether intentional or accidental, plagiarism occurs when you don't credit the source of your ideas. It doesn't just apply to word-for-word quotations. Plagiarism also occurs when you paraphrase another author's work or use their ideas without indicating that this is what you're doing.

Avoiding plagiarism doesn't mean never using other's work. In scholarly research papers, it's usually imperative that you reference other scholars' research to give your own work credibility. Part of creating such credibility is properly citing your sources. Proper citation helps the reader to distinguish between your background information and the new ideas that you are contributing.

Why take plagiarism seriously?

Here at CSUSB, plagiarism falls into the category of academic dishonesty. There can be serious consequences for plagiarism including referral to the Judicial Affairs officer, the lowering of your grade for the assignment or the entire course, or additional assignments to be completed.2

Outside of CSUSB, you could be sued by a copyright holder or fired from your job for plagiarism. It's important to learn when and how to cite your sources to avoid harmful consequences.

When to Cite?

The following are some guidelines to when you should cite a source:

  1. You use an exact quotation: If using a phrase word-for-word, remember it must be in quotation marks followed by a citation.
  2. u use another author's ideas: Even if you're paraphrasing or translating an idea into your own words, it's still important to credit the source of the original idea.
  3. You use special "common knowledge": Even if you're repeating information that is easily confirmed by several sources, if it's likely to be unfamiliar to your reader you need to provide a citation.
  4. You use a graphic to illustrate a point: Remember that you must provide a citation for graphs, charts, and images reproduced in your papers.

As a general rule, if you're not sure whether or not you should cite something, you should probably provide a citation just to be safe.

What if I use too many citations?

Many students inadvertently plagiarize because they are worried about using too many citations and looking as though they aren't contributing their own ideas. A good way to insure this doesn't happen is to use quotations or summaries as a springboard for further examination. Sayre provides an excellent explanation of how you should use quoted material in your papers:

By forcing yourself to respond to material you quote, you will in fact begin…a dialogue. You will never become a slave to your research. Also, in a very real sense, by responding to it and developing it further, you will make the quoted material your own.3

Responding to the quoted material doesn't always mean disagreeing with it. If an author has stated a certain problem or observation in a very clear, succinct or clever way, using her words may be more effective than trying to paraphrase the same observation in your own words.

When using a quotation, ask yourself the following questions to determine how to respond to the quotation, summary, or image:

  • What does the quotation add to the ideas of the paper?
  • Is it necessary?
  • How does my viewpoint relate to the quotation?
  • How can I develop the ideas of the quotation or summary?

What style should I use?

Most of the papers you will be writing in the Art Department will be art history or art criticism. Neither of these fields has a set standard for which citation style you should use. Always check with your professor, your syllabus, or your assignment to see if there is a particular citation style you should use.

As a general rule if there is no citation style set by your professor, use Chicago style since it is the style most commonly used in the humanities. That sounds simple enough, but there are several nuances within Chicago style. There is a style called Turabian Style, which is nearly identical to the main Chicago Style. The difference is in how the numbering of footnotes is formatted. It should be permissible to use either style to format footnotes.

Within Chicago Style, there are two versions; use the humanities style version rather than the author-date system. The humanities style allows for clean citations for a wider range of source types.

Where can I get help with my citations?

Books in the VRC

Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. (Z253. U69)

Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations.
        Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996. (LB2369 .T8)

Online Guides

Chicago Manual of Style Quick Guide

Purdue Online Writing Lab: Chicago Manual of Style

What are some examples of Chicago Style?

When using Chicago Style, you need to decide whether you will place your notes at the bottom of each page as footnotes or at the end of your paper as endnotes. Usually if you use footnotes, you will also include a bibliography at the end of your paper while the endnotes choice will not be accompanied by a bibliography. Below examples will be in two forms the notes form (n) and the bibliography form (b).

Book with one author

N:      1. Jenny Sullivan, Brochures: Making a Strong Impression (Gloucester, MA: Rockport Publishers, 2004), 31.

B:       Sullivan, Jenny. Brochures: Making a Strong Impression. Gloucester, MA: Rockport Publishers, 2004.

Books with two to three authors

N:      1. Hal Foster and Robert Longo, Robert Longo: Retrospective (Ostfildern : Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2011), 65.

B:       Foster, Hal and Robert Longo. Robert Longo: Retrospective. Ostfildern : Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2011.

Book with four or more authors

N:      1. Mariana Boteny, et al., MEX/LA: Mexican Modernisms in Los Angeles 1930-1985.(Ostfildern : Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2011), 45.

B:       Boteny, Mariana, Harry Gamboa, Ana Elena Mallet and Catha Paquette.
                MEX/LA: Mexican Modernisms in Los Angeles 1930-1985. Ostfildern : Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2011.

Book with editor(s), translator(s), or complier(s).

N:      1. Victoria Woodcock and Ziggy Hanaor, eds., State of Craft (London: Cicada Books, 2011), 12-15.

B:       Woodcock, Victoria and Ziggy Hanaor, eds. State of Craft. London: Cicada
                Books, 2011.
                * Use the abbreviation trans. for translators and comps. for compilers.

Journal Article

N:      1. Rosalind Krauss, "Reinventing the Medium," Critical Inquiry 25, no. 2 (1999): 289-305.

B:       Krauss, Rosalind. "Reinventing the Medium." Critical Inquiry 25, no. 2 (1999): 289-305.

Online Articles

When online journal articles were first introduced, it was common practice to list the access date. If you include the access date, it should be placed before the article URL or DOI (digital object identifier, you will often see this instead of a URL in academic online publishing. It is preferred if available).

N:      1. Rosalind E. Krauss, "Reinventing the Medium," Critical Inquiry 25, no. 2 (1999): 289-305,

B:       Krauss, Rosalind E. "Reinventing the Medium." Critical Inquiry 25, no. 2
                (1999): 289-305.


The first date in the citation of a film is the original release date. The second date is the release date on that particular type of medium.

N:      1. Bill Cunningham New York, directed by Richard Press (2011; New York: Zeitgeist Films, 2011), DVD.

B:       Bill Cunningham New York. Directed by Richard Press. 2011. New York:
                Zeitgeist Films, 2011. DVD.

1. Plagiarism, n. The Oxford English Dictionary Online.
2. Educational Policy and Resources Committee, "Policy and Procedures Concerning Academic Dishonesty," Academic Affairs: Faculty Administrative Manual, 2003,
3. Henry M. Sayre, Writing About Art, 5th ed. (Upper Saddle River, Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005), 90.