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Can You Recognize Plagiarism?

An assessment to determine how well you understand the ways in which plagiarism can occur.

Internet Sources

Because the internet and web-based sources are extremely popular among students, confusion arises in most classes about proper documentation of such information. In most instances, the same rules apply here as for printed sources. If you borrow any information from an internet source, you must cite it, including visuals, graphics, statistical reports, lab reports, even personal essays posted online. For sources with no pagination, many style manuals ask that you count the number of paragraphs contained in the document and refer to the information that you cite by paragraph number.

You must be careful of the information provided from such sources so that you are quoting legitimate information, but any borrowed information must be documented so that your readers are clear about the origin of such information and know precisely where to go to obtain additional information from a cited source. Copying graphs and texts may require permission from the site's owner. Once again, always err on the side of caution.

Ways to Evaluate Sources

Whether you're considering an Internet source or any other type of source, be sure to evaluate its usefulness to your paper. 

One way to do that is by the RADAR method: 

Specific questions to consider as you evaluate these areas: 

I. Rationale

  • Why has this information been published? Is it informational, promotional, educational, or something else? Are there sponsors or advertisements associated with this source? Who has paid to make this available – The publisher? The author(s)? A company?
  • Are multiple points of view present?
  • Does the author leave out any important information or data that might disprove their claim? Have they refuted this information at all if it exists?
  • How is the writing of the piece? Is it rational or emotional? Does the author follow proper grammatical and spelling conventions?

II. Authority 

  • What are the author’s credentials? • Is the author affiliated with anyone – an educational institution, a company, a prominent organization
  • Can you find any information about the author through a search on the Internet – website, other   publications, background information?
  • Do other books or articles on the same topic cite this author?
  • Is the publisher reputable?
  • If it’s on the Internet, is it fabricated or intended as satire? Check the “About” page and Google it with the word “fake” to see if it is legitimate.

III. Date

  • When was this information published or last updated?
  • Have newer articles been published on the topic?
  • Do the links to any sources on the site still work? If there are no links, are the other references up-to-date?
  • Is this a topic in an area that changes rapidly, like technology, science or medicine, or is this a historical topic?
  • Is the information obsolete?

IV. Accuracy

  • Are there any statements that you know are incorrect? Verify an unlikely story by finding a reputable source writing about the same thing. 
  • Was the information reviewed by editors or subject experts (“peer reviewed”) before it was published? Was it fact-checked? How do you know?
  • Do the citations and references support the author’s claim? Are they cited correctly? Follow the links – if the links don’t work, this could be a red flag.
  • What do other people have to say about this topic? Is there general agreement among subject experts?
  • If applicable, is there a description of the research method used? Does it seem appropriate and well-executed?
  • Was this published by a peer-reviewed journal or press? A university or academic press? A reputable publisher?
  • If there are pictures, are they of a decent quality? Were they photo-shopped? Are they credited to the photographer? Use a reverse image search engine like TinEye to see where an image really comes from.
  • For websites, what is the domain? Is this a reputable site?

V. Relevancy

  • Does the information answer your research question?
  • Is the information supporting or refuting your points?
  • Does the information meet the stated requirements for the assignment?
  • Is the information too technical or too simplified for you to use?
  • Who is the intended audience of the source? Does the source add something new to your knowledge of the topic?
  • Is the information focused on the geographical location you are interested in? Is it from another country or continent?


Adapted from the RADAR Framework available on the “Evaluating Sources: Using the RADAR Framework” LibGuide from the LMU LA William H. Hannon Library:

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