I have copied several paragraphs from our course textbook in my homework, however before starting the section which is from the textbook I have clearly stated that following sections are from textbook (name of book, author, chapter). But I did not put them in quotation marks.

Is that plagiarism?

  • 8
    The best source for information on how this is handled will be the person(s) grading your work. We cannot know what policies are applied at your institution, so you should rather ask directly.
    – yankeekilo
    Apr 7, 2016 at 6:50
  • 5
    Long quotations are typically indicated not by use of quotation marks, but via layout or typography. In a hand-written or type-written document, they would typically be indented. They may also be preceded and followed by more whitespace than usual. In a printed document, they would also typically be set in an alternate font, marked with a part to the left, or other such means. Did you endeavor to clearly indicate the boundaries of the quoted text?
    – supercat
    Apr 7, 2016 at 15:33

4 Answers 4


Plagiarism is not a matter of quotation marks. The question is whether, when reading your homework, it is clear that the excerpts are not your own words but from some place else. You could also use an indentation for a paragraph, or put it all in italics. Quite often this is a matter of style guides or the preferences of the respective department or whoever is grading your work.

However, if you simply referenced a book, chapter or anything else at the beginning of a section and then started copy and pasting, at worst changing the order of paragraphs and mixing in your own words to connect passages, I'd have serious problems with that. Even if not reading your homework cover to cover (but let's say when opening a random page) it needs to be clear what is copied and what not and where copied passages are from. So yes, depending on how you have formatted and phrased the text, the omission of quotation marks may well be interpreted as plagiarism.

By the way, copying several paragraphs from any source will most likely not get you the best grade. Quote where necessary but focus on your own thougths and words and use the quotes to get your overall point across.

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    +1 for focus on your own thougths and words and use the quotes to get your overall point across I really like this constructive answer.
    – Nobody
    Apr 7, 2016 at 7:21
  • Thanks @scaaahu, even though that made me notice the typo! ;)
    – tipavi
    Apr 7, 2016 at 7:30
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    Well, in my student career I've had to write many essays in mathematics/computer science as part of exams and the professor most of the time wanted a complete work, with the basic definitions used in the work etc. Since those are just mathematical definitions, most of the time well known, you generally simply state "I'll use the notation/definitions from <book>" and write down the introductory definitions required without any kind of special quotation formatting... and this is normal for mathematical writing. In other fields attribute should be more prominent.
    – Bakuriu
    Apr 7, 2016 at 13:44
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    Uhm I feel your answer is too strict. If I read something like "note: this text is mainly from pages X-Y of book Z with some paraphrasing", that's enough for it not to be plagiarism. The source isn't being misrepresented; it doesn't matter if you can't figure out exactly which words are from the book and which are from the author, because you are already told the thoughts are from the book and if you really care about the words you could look them up. The author being up-front about the whole thing is key to me here, not how precise they are with quoting.
    – user541686
    Apr 8, 2016 at 4:38
  • @Mehrdad It matters because good writing is a skill which, by copy-pasting a source which is presumably well written, you pretend to have even though you may not actually have it. Even if not "plagiarism" stricto sensu, I would consider it extremely misleading, and thus unethical. The burden should not be on the reader to "look up the words" in order to figure out whether the author is actually as good a writer as the text indicates.
    – fkraiem
    Jun 4, 2016 at 15:32

I would suggest consulting with your professor or your student handbook to determine what would be deemed plagiarism. Within my school, in the strictest tense, this would considered a "grey-area" in terms of plagiarism if it wasn't properly following the style outlined by the professor. In this case, most of my teachers would most likely deduct points off as a "slap on the wrist". If you plan on being published, then you MUST properly and accurately cite following a particular style. If you can determine the citation style/standard within your school or course (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc -- https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/2/) and follow their proper guidelines to cite large text, such as a block quote, then you should be fine.

In APA and MLA, you would quote anything that aren't your own words (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/577/01/).


You should consult your tutor/teacher as to whether quotation marks should be used when copying items from a textbook. As a former academic external examiner I would advise that it would be safer and better practice to use quotation marks plus always quoting your sources. If your college/school uses an electronic plagiarism checker this is likely to pick up on all quotations whether highlighted with quotation marks and appropriate referencing or not. The amount of quotations used is likely to be picked up on as a percentage and if the percentage is very high then your work is likely to be questioned as being overly dependent upon other people's work. Take advice from your tutors. Clearly it is vital to do your research and show your source materials but how you do this depends on (a) your tutor/markers' instructions re plagiarism and suchlike, and (b) which country you are studying in. I can only speak for English practices and general awarding body regulations. Don't forget that you are also demonstrating your level of understanding and analytical abilities etc. within your work and if the markers find a very large proportion of extracts without evidence of analysis, critique and so on, then marks would be deducted from your work. In the worst case scenario students have been failed on modules and even courses as a result of plagiarism.



Quotation marks does not equal non plagiarism. It is possible to properly reference without them as well as plagiarize even with them.

Check it out: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/

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