I am writing my essay where I analyze how different text search algorithms work and compare their efficiency in specific situations.

I did not actually take even a sentence from where I have read about the algorithms, everything is written by myself, how I understood it, but of course I did not invent those algorithms, and I want (and I think this is a compulsory) to actually refer to those sources, but how do I do it? Should I simply create a footnote even though my essay does not contain any sentence from that source? My essay is going to be passed to some plagiarism checker, therefore, I do not want any problems with "fake footnotes just to make my essay look stronger" or something like that. We use ISO 690 citing style.

  • 10
    How does your case differ from usual references? Few references come with a quote. Aug 2, 2018 at 12:02
  • 3
    A citation does not imply that you copied language from the source. In fact, copying language from a source without marking it as a direct quotation would be plagiarism with or without a citation. Aug 2, 2018 at 12:04

2 Answers 2


If you take even a sentence from another paper, it would be evident plagiarism (unless you explicitly and undoubtedly indicate it's a quotation, in which case you need to also cite the source of the quote).

But! Plagiarism is not only stealing words - it's also stealing ideas. So if you take someone else's idea/algorithm and not give due credit - that's plagiarism, unethical behavior and intellectual theft.

And about the only took the ideas part: how far would you go if you didn't employ those ideas? Would you have anything to investigate/write about? If your work would be impossible (or at least much more complicated to have done, or become completely different) - you cite what you use.

  • I generally agree with the caveat that Plagiarism also means that you represent the "stolen" ideas as your own. We use ideas of, say, Euclid, all the time without citation, but don't represent them as our ideas.
    – Buffy
    Aug 2, 2018 at 11:22
  • 1
    @Buffy See What is Common Knowledge?
    – user68958
    Aug 2, 2018 at 11:24
  • Okay, understood, exactly like I thought it will be, thanks :)
    – Danielius
    Aug 2, 2018 at 16:50

You should make it clear in the text who invented the algorithms, and cite next to the names, usually. Write something like:

The XYZ search algorithm [1], works by...

Foo et al. [2] propose an algorithm which...

  • And if I, for example use this article, which explains how one of my analyzed algorithms work, but I rewrite the ideas how I understand them, I need to simply refer to that article as a citation or could I say that I "took ideas" from it? like: Ideas taken from Author name, title, users.csc.calpoly.edu/~dekhtyar/448-Spring2013/lectures/…, etc...?
    – Danielius
    Aug 2, 2018 at 9:49
  • 4
    "took ideas" is a bit vague. I'd say something like "As explained in the CSC448 lecture notes by Alexander Dekhtyar, the Rabin-Karp Algorithm works by..." Or, if you're taking some comparison/analysis of multiple algorithms: "In his lecture notes, Alexander Dekhtyar classifies search algorithms into X categories, ... [I adopt this classification in this essay because it is useful in the following manner...]"
    – nengel
    Aug 2, 2018 at 11:11
  • 2
    Essentially, be clear on which ideas you took.
    – nengel
    Aug 2, 2018 at 11:12
  • Would only add that the citation should come at the first reference to the idea that is being used. I'd note too that a plagiarism checker will have lots of false positives. It is hard to discuss complex ideas with no intersection of phrasing with the original, even in scrupulous scholarship.
    – Buffy
    Aug 2, 2018 at 11:26

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