Skip to Main Content

BCIT Student Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism

This guide is intended to help students understand plagiarism, a form of copyright violation. Plagiarism is a serious academic offense and is a prohibited behaviour at BCIT.

In-text Citations

For in-text citations in APA, provide at least the author’s name and the year of publication.  For direct quotations and some paraphrases, give a page number as well. For online sources without page numbers, indicate the paragraph number. Use the abbreviation para.

Short quotations

Incorporate quotations that are fewer than 40 words in the text of your paper. Enclose the quotation in quotation marks.

Frisch (2008) has observed that “teams should continue to reframe their options in ways that preserve their original intent, be it a higher return on net assets or greater growth” (p. 126).

Long quotations

Quotations that are longer than 40 words should be displayed in a freestanding double-spaced block of text without quotation marks.  Start the quotation on a new line, indented five to seven spaces from the left margin.

Frisch (2008) stated the following:

Teams should continue to reframe their options in ways that preserve their original intent, be it a higher return on net assets or greater growth. When they feel the impulse to shoehorn decisions into an either/or framework, they should step back and generate a broader range of options (p. 126).

Indirect quotations

You should always try to access the original source of quotations. When this is not possible, use "as cited in" to identify the source you accessed that contains the quotation.  

Certainly there is a perception, as described by one employee (Evans & Bartolome, 1980), that the "price one has to pay [to be company president] is too high. I've seen those guys on the sixth floor, and the stress that they are under. God help them." (as cited in Handy, 1999, p. 251).

Note 1: In the above example, the writer accessed the quote from Handy, although the original source was Evans and Bartolome.

Note 2: The information provided in square brackets '[ ]' in the above example is added by the writer to give clarification of what the quotation is about. In other cases, a word or phrase might be inserted to make the sentence grammatical. This should be done sparingly, and in all cases the meaning of the original should obtain.   

Note 3: Handy would be cited in the reference list.


Paraphrasing - putting someone else's ideas into your own words - is an important writing tool. In APA, the in-text citation format is the same as with quotations except that the page number is not required. When paraphrasing, be sure to reword the original as much as you can. Paraphrasing that is too close to the original might be considered plagiarism. Below is an example of an effective and of an ineffective paraphrase.

Original excerpt: When decision failures occur, many executives focus on the issues involved, and they seek to identify the mistaken judgements and flawed assumptions that they made. However, many leaders do not push further to investigate why they made these errors.

Source: Roberto, M. A. (2013). Why great leaders don't take yes for an answer: managing for conflict and consensus (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River: FT Press.

Incomplete paraphrase: When decision errors happen, plenty of executives look at the issues, and they try to identify the mistaken judgements and assumptions that they made. However, many do not go deeper to investigate why they made these mistakes (Roberto, 2013).

Note: The above example might be considered plagiarism, as it retains too much of the original's words and structure.

Complete paraphrase: Roberto (2013) has argued that business leaders frequently avoid analysis of the ultimate causes of bad decision-making, and are instead too often satisfied with an understanding of proximate factors.

Primary Versus Secondary Sources

What is a primary source?

  • A document or record containing first-hand information or original data on a topic.
  • A work created at the time of an event or by a person who directly experienced an event
  • Some examples include: interviews, diaries, letters, journals, newspaper and magazine articles, government documents, maps, etc.
  • Archives are repositories of primary sources.

What is a secondary source?

  • Any published or unpublished work that is one step removed from the original source.
  • Secondary sources often describe, summarize, analyze, evaluate or are based on primary source materials.
  • A source that is one step removed from the original event or experience.
  • A source that provides criticism or interpretation of a primary source.

If you do not have access to the primary source take care to always cite the source you are actually using. A perfect quote cited in one article often leads researchers on deeper research adventures finding original source materials. If you want to use a source found within a secondary source try to find that source material. If you use citations from a secondary source as if you had access to the primary source you are misrepresenting the source and this is considered plagiarism.

Each source you use should be carefully considered - you decide what to do with the evidence and sources that you find. Primary sources are not necessarily free from bias or inaccuracy. It can be difficult to determine whether a source is primary or secondary.