Avoid Plagiarism. How to Cite Your Sources Online.

Avoid Plagiarism. How to Cite Your Sources Online.

In a world where access to new information and images is at the click of a link online, citing sources has never been more important. Today it takes under five seconds to copy and paste text or download someone else’s image. To ensure we are adding value in the content we are writing, presenting or tweeting and avoiding plagiarism, it is crucial to follow these quick steps. 


Blog posts are one of the easiest ways to share insight and demonstrate thought leadership with our audience. Information can be presented in many ways including: writing, videos, images, charts, infographics or many other combinations of media.

 No matter if you are writing a journal article, an editorial or a quick blog post, when writing you should follow the latest American Psychological Association style guidelines (APA Style). Most of the writing for a blog should be your own. When you reference the work of others, APA Style in-text citations are recommended and references can be included at the end. You can review APA style online or purchase/download the manual for easy reference.

 If you are sharing someone else’s journal article, editorial, presentation or other media, it is never appropriate to just copy and paste their content on to your own platform. You must cite the source and provide additional context to why this information is being included. Republishing someone else’s work as your own is plagiarism and is not acceptable. If you wish to just share it quickly, it is recommended to share a link to the original work via social media channels. If you choose to reference the work or use a portion of the work in your own content, correct APA citations are required. 


When including imagery (photos, charts, graphs etc.) in your blog post, webpage, presentation or other media, you should always have the appropriate permission to include it. You should never reproduce someone else’s work without the correct permissions. If permissions are required, it is a good idea to get permission in writing or via email so it can be filed away and made available for easy reference.

Many resources available offer images and graphs that are available for “public use.” They include: 

When using someone else’s image/chart/graph/graphic it should include a caption and either use the rules for “figures” in APA Style or include an image citation source at the end of the document or on a final slide in the presentation. Depending on the technology available, character limits and readability, you might have to cite your image sources in a new way. If you are not using APA for images (PowerPoint, websites, print materials) reference Photoshare.org for multiple ways to cite images.

If you are sharing downloaded images on social media, you should include the attribution (if required) in the caption (Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn) or embedded on the image (Twitter). Social media is not an excuse to borrow an image and not cite it appropriately.

If you choose to embed a video from YouTube (or other media source), a slideshare presentation, a tweet or Instagram post, the content should directly link back to the original source. It is not necessary to cite these sources in-line, as they already click back to the source.

If you add music to your photo slideshow or make a quick video from your phone, you must gain the rights to the music before sharing. If you use popular music your work could be flagged and will be taken down especially by YouTube and Facebook.  Instead of using popular music, YouTube, ccMixter, SoundCloud and incompetech.com have royalty free music libraries available for use. 


If you write for another journal, brief, guest write a blog post or appear in a video on someone else’s site, don’t republish or recreate the same exact content on your own site. Duplicate online content is frowned upon by Google and other search engines. Instead, you should link to the original posting of your work and encourage people to view it in its original format. If sharing is not possible, you should recreate a different version of the work for your own site. The content should always be new and not directly copied and pasted.

When creating your digital content, it is best practice to find a few key resources that work for your workflow and become familiar with their requirements and the rights they grant for reuse. By finding a workflow that makes sense for you, it will make content production much faster and you will be more familiar with what is required to source content and cite it correctly when necessary.

Do you have a question or something you want to add to this article? Send an email to the author: tthomas10@unl.edu.  


Tyler A. Thomas
Social Media & Content Manager
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Peer reviewed by: Dipti Dev, Ph.D., Alice Henneman, MS, RDN, Lisa Jasa, Colin McGinnis, Ph.D. student and Haley Steinkuhler

See related work: Social Media