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A charge of plagiarism can have severe consequences, including expulsion from a university or loss of a job, not to mention a writer's loss of credibility and professional standing.
This resource, which does not reflect any official university policy, is designed to help you develop strategies for knowing how to avoid accidental plagiarism.
But when in doubt, cite; if the citation turns out to be unnecessary, your teacher or editor will tell you.
Most students, of course, don't intend to plagiarize.
Sometimes teachers suspecting students of plagiarism will consider the students' intent, and whether it appeared the student was deliberately trying to make ideas of others appear to be his or her own.
However, other teachers and administrators may not distinguish between deliberate and accidental plagiarism.
For instructors seeking a key statement on definitions and avoidance on plagiarism, see Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices.