In all BIO courses, the only written resources required for the course are your textbook and lab…

In all BIO courses, the only written resources required for the course are your textbook and lab manual. What does this mean for you? It means that in the final analysis, you should have no reason to extensively cite anything! The best way to write the essays is to read the essay question, review the relevant sections in the class materials (e.g., textbook and/or lab manual), and then place the materials aside. Once the relevant sections in the book or lab manual have been reviewed and studied, they should be closed and the essay should be answered based on what has been learned. Note: This is the preferred method for writing the essays for the department.

We know that the topic of plagiarism generates a lot of anxiety and that students are often unclear about when they need to include citations (i.e. formal acknowledgement of using or borrowing from another’s work). This is especially true in the sciences, where so much of the information encountered is fact-based and impervious to interpretation. Students often indicate that it is challenging to describe scientific principles, definitions, conditions, and other such information their “own words.” After all, essay questions are based on material that has been previously characterized, defined, or described! Since this characterization is not yours to begin with, how CAN you explain it without plagiarizing or citing every single sentence?

Fear not! It CAN be done. Let’s use the following as an illustration. It is an essay question that is based on content presented in a BIO 105 lesson on Environmental Health and Toxicology:

What are endocrine disruptors? How do they work on pests? Why are they a problem for humans? Have they been banned? Why or why not?

In the example essay question above, one element that could potentially require a citation is the definition of “endocrine disruptor.” Ideally, the department would like to see students provide their own definitions of terms and processes, but we do realize that there are times when the technical nature of some definitions makes this very challenging. If you must include a definition from the text or lab material, it can be easily handled this way:

According to the course text, an endocrine disruptor is “a toxicant that interferes with the endocrine (hormone) system” (Withgott and Brennan, 2008). [APA citation style]

According to lab 12, endocrine disruptors are “chemicals that interfere with the endocrine (hormone) system, which in part, controls reproductive hormones” (online lab #10, n.d.). [Preferred citation style for labs]

At this point in the above illustration, you should close the textbook and answer the remaining questions in your own words. You should be able to answer the vast majority of essay questions without referring to the book. If you cannot, then you have not mastered the material. Essay questions are designed to assess comprehension. Instructors realize that many scientific terms, systems and processes are difficult to describe. They are not looking for artfully crafted descriptions as much as they are looking for genuine understanding. A sample definition of endocrine disruptors written in a student’s “own words” follows:

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that negatively affect the endocrine system. The endocrine system controls hormones, including reproductive hormones, which why endocrine disruptors are considered such an environmental hazard.

In this example, the student’s comprehension is demonstrated to a far greater degree than in the first and second cases, where a simple textbook/lab definition is all that is provided.

Writing Expectations:

All essay-type work (including those found on the in-person exams) will be graded according to the department rubric that is posted in the announcements. It is expected that your writing will be done in your own words (with the exception of cited material) and at a college level. The object of the essay questions is to provide students with the opportunity to reinforce the lesson objectives and course competencies and to assess comprehension of the lesson material. If a student is not confident in his or her acquired knowledge on a topic and uses heavy paraphrasing, or uses exact verbiage from a source, citations will be required. (Samples of citations are included following the FAQ section). Failure to do so is considered plagiarism and will result in no credit on the assignment and possible disciplinary action at the college level.

Here are some FAQs regarding citation and plagiarism:

Q: What is paraphrasing?
A: Paraphrasing is when you use information/ideas/concepts from a source but do not use it verbatim. Examples of paraphrasing include but are not limited to swapping out a few synonyms, deleting words, or shortening an exact passage of an original piece of writing. Paraphrasing requires a citation. NOTE: If you answer the essay question with the book closed, you can safely assume you have not paraphrased and that a citation is not required.

Q: Can I use quotations in my essays and labs?
A: Although quotations can be used, it is not recommended, with very few exceptions. You are encouraged to use your own words in written assignments. If you rely too heavily on the verbiage provided in the textbook or in other sources, it will impede the instructor’s ability to evaluate your understanding of the material. While it may demonstrate that you were able to find material to support an answer, it does not demonstrate your comprehension of the material. If the number of direct quotes used in a student’s writing interferes with the instructor’s ability to assess comprehension of the material, the student will not earn credit on the assignment. Additionally, when it comes time to answer the essay questions on the in-person midterm and final exams, it would be difficult to compose essays where a source was directly quoted, as this would clearly require extensive memorization.

Q: I’ll be using the textbook for the majority of my essay. Do I need to provide a citation? A: Not if you compose the essay in your own words. The optimal strategy for writing in this class is to avoid the necessity for citations! Remember: If you have read the essay question, reviewed and studied the relevant material, placed the references aside and then wrote your essay (or lab) based on learned knowledge and in your own words, a citation will not be required.

Q: I need help coming up with an application for my essay and I need to research on the Internet. Do I need to include a citation? A: Yes. When using an outside source that includes specific data or material beyond what is available in your course materials, you will need to include a citation so that credit is given to the source.

Q: I included a reference list at the end of my assignment, but I was still accused of plagiarism and received no credit. Why? A: When using multiple sources to complete an essay assignment, a list of references at the end of the assignment is not sufficient. Students must also include in-text citations, which identify the use of source material throughout the essay. If no in-text citations are provided, it is impossible to identify which portions of the essay correlate to the reference list. In addition to failing to properly credit the original sources, the omission of in-text citations makes it extremely difficult to determine which parts of the essay are the student’s original work and which parts were referenced.

Q: Do I need to include in-text citations if I am only using a single source? A: Yes. You need to use in-text citations to acknowledge the use of quoted or paraphrased material whether you are citing a single source (e.g., your textbook) or multiple sources. In academic writing, each in-text citation is tied to an entry in the reference list. Here is an example of an in-text citation that acknowledges paraphrased material from your text book:

Understanding the endomembrane system is paramount to the study of medicine because it is the basis of how the human body works. For example, human liver cells, which house lysosomes, recycle half of their cells each week. In the body of a person with cirrhosis, there is a progressive destruction of liver cells which can interfere with the organ’s ability to process nutrients, hormones, and drugs and slows the production of protein other substances manufactured in the liver. Relating back to the levels of organization, this example shows how issues on the molecular, organelle, and cellular levels travel upward to create problems in the tissue, organ, organ system, and organisms can occur. (Campbell et. al, 2006).

A citation of this source in the reference list would look like this:

Campbell, N.A., Reece, J.B., Taylor, M.R., and Simon, E.J. (2006). Biology: Concepts and Connections (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Benjamin Cummings. Printed in Biology Concepts and Connections, a Custom Edition for Rio Salado College.

If you do not include in-text citations, and only provide a reference list citation, your instructor has no way of determining which portions of the content you have written are original (your own) and which portions come from an outside source.

Q: I want to cite the online laboratory. What format do I use? A: The following is the preferred format for the online labs.

? An in text citation will include the lab number and n.d. notation for “no date.”

(online lab #1, n.d.)

? The end of text citation will be a full citation for electronic media. (Note: Once you click on the link for the laboratory, you will need to copy the URL from the browser address bar)

Online lab #1: Introduction to the Laboratory and Laboratory Safety (n.d.). Rio Salado College. Retrieved from:

Q: Can I use YouTube, Wikipedia,, etc., as sources? A: No. YouTube and Wikipedia are examples of websites that anyone can post information on and edit, so instructors cannot verify if the information is correct. While it is okay to explore these sites, in most cases, they are not appropriate for college research. If you learn a new fact from any of these sites, double check it at another website that contains information from a scientifically credible source. Below are several websites that provide criteria for evaluating electronic resources and can assist you in finding credible material:

Video: Searching for Articles
This video includes a section on limiting to scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles that occurs at 1:51.

Checklist for Evaluating Research Sources

Evaluating Purpose/Bias of Internet Sources

Distinguishing between Popular and Scholarly Journals

When including a source, the information must come from a trusted outlet (e.g., scholarly journal article, Environmental Protection Agency website, Scientific American). If a website is selling something, it cannot be used. For example, a vitamin site may say that a particular supplement is ‘scientifically proven,’ but unless the site also includes data to substantiate that claim, it cannot be used. WikiAnswers, Yahoo, Answers, and similar websites also cannot be used.

Q: What if I am unsure if I need to reference something? A: It is better to be safe than sorry. Provide a reference.

Appropriate Use of Citations:

The only written resources required for the course are your textbook and lab manual. It is acceptable and even encouraged for you to rely entirely upon these sources to complete your written assignments. If a student heavily paraphrases or uses direct quotes from these materials (or other materials found online), it is necessary to cite these sources both within the body of the essay (using in-text citations) AND with end of text citations. Students need to use one of the acceptable formats (APA or MLA) for their citations. It is imperative that you properly cite your sources in your essay assignments. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism and will result in a score of zero.


The Biology department accepts the usage of appropriate citations in either APA or MLA style. Below you will find illustrations of the use of in-text and end of text citations in both APA and MLA citation styles: ? APA Style:

The other system affected by microvascular disorders is the renal system. End-stage renal disease is most commonly caused by diabetes (Huether & McCance, 2008). The combination of AGEs, polyol pathways activation, glucose toxicity, and the inappropriate activity of PKC all contribute to deterioration of the renal system. It is the denaturalization of protein by high renal blood flow, hyperglycemia, and intraglomerular hypertension all contribute to the specific destruction of the kidney’s glomeruli. These changes come early in the diabetic disease and can lead to dialysis or a place on a transplant waiting list.

Huether, S.E., McCance, K.L. (2008). Understanding pathophysiology (4th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Inc.
? MLA Style:

Being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes mellitus is the first step in controlling the hyperglycemia and all the complications that come with this disease. High LDL levels play a critical role in the hardening and narrowing of blood vessels throughout the body. According to WebMD (2009), the LDL goal should be under 100. The Mayo Clinic (2009) suggests these dietary recommendations for lowering LDLs and raising HDLs: • Increase soluble fiber. Eating more oatmeal and oat bran. • Moderate increase in polyunsaturated fats. Nuts like walnuts and almonds are good examples but just a handful due to the fact they are high in calories. • Increase omega-3 fatty acids. Eating fish like tuna and salmon twice or more a week. • Cook with olive oil. It has been proven to lower the LDL. • Eat foods that are fortified with plant sterols or stanols. Some brands of orange juice and yogurt drinks are fortified with plant sterols.

Eldelton M.D., Dan. “7 Principles for Controlling Diabetes for Life.” WebMD, n.d. Web. 28 Sep. 2009. Solazo M.D., Tom. “Cholesterol: The Top 5 Foods to Lower Your Numbers.” MayoClinic, n.d. Web. 3 Oct. 2009.

Advisory: Rio Salado College employs plagiarism detection software which can uncover instances of plagiarism from student to student and also from other data sources on the internet. If a student is found to have plagiarized content, consequences will be applied in accordance with departmental policies.

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