Be organized and stay organized in your research. When taking notes, make clear distinctions between your own thoughts about the article or issue, the thoughts of the author you are reading, and the thoughts of the person your author is talking about.
The Yale College Rules & Regulations handbook has some helpful things to say about the issue of plagiarism:
Plagiarism is the use of someone else’s work, words, or ideas as if they were one’s own. Thus, most forms of cheating on examinations are plagiarism; but the term is usually used in reference to papers rather than examinations.
If one uses a source for a paper, one must acknowledge it. What counts as a source varies greatly depending on the assignment, but the list certainly includes readings, lectures, websites, conversations, interviews, and other students’ papers. Every academic discipline has its own conventions for acknowledging sources. Instructors should make clear which conventions students must use. In all situations, students who are confused about the specific punctuation and formatting must nonetheless make clear in written work where they have borrowed from others—whether it be a matter of data, opinions, questions, ideas, or specific language. This obligation holds whether the sources are published or unpublished.
Submission of an entire paper prepared by someone else is an especially egregious form of plagiarism, and is grounds for the imposition of a particularly serious penalty, including expulsion from the University.
Some further points:
1. Take clear notes in which you keep your own thoughts distinct from those of others. You do not want to submit inadvertently the words of ideas of others as your own.
2. Remember that you should acknowledge unpublished as well as published sources. This includes the work of other students and ideas that you may have derived from lectures and conversations.
3. An essay must stand on its own and not as a form of conversation with the instructor. In preparing a paper, it will help you to assume a larger audience than your instructor. Imagine everyone in your class, for example, reading your paper for this will give you a surer sense of what to document and what to take as common knowledge.
4. Mark and identify all quotations, give the source of translations, regularly acknowledge specific ideas, and give the source of facts not commonly known. If you are in doubt as to what may be “commonly known,” that is a signal that you should document it, even at the risk of appearing overcautious or simplistic.
Submission of an entire paper prepared by someone else is an especially egregious form of plagiarism, and is grounds for the imposition of a particularly serious penalty, even for expulsion from the University.