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10 Tips to Avoid Plagiarism in Your Papers and Written Work

Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a master's degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.

Read on to discover 10 tips to help you avoid plagiarism in your papers.

Read on to discover 10 tips to help you avoid plagiarism in your papers.

What Is Plagiarism?

According to the University of Oxford, "Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement." Plagiarism should definitely be out of the question for you.

When you are writing an essay, you should make sure that your idea is original and not copied from somewhere else. This can be a very serious offense, especially in schools and universities where the students are held responsible for their actions of plagiarism. They may be suspended or even expelled from their schools if they are caught in the act of plagiarism.

No matter how careful you are, there is always a chance that you might end up copying another person's work without knowing it. You might accidentally copy someone's words or ideas without realizing it. How can you avoid this? Here are a few tips to help you avoid plagiarism in your essay.

10 Tips to Avoid Plagiarism

  1. Understand Plagiarism
  2. Use Your Own Words
  3. Avoid Paraphrasing Too Much
  4. Acknowledge Sources Clearly
  5. Format Properly Using APA, MLA, etc. Rules
  6. Cite Facts and Opinions Equally
  7. Use Quotation Marks When Quoting
  8. Be Creative in Writing Your Own Unique Text
  9. Don't Use Wikipedia
  10. Avoid Free Plagiarism Checkers

1. Understand Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the act of taking another person's language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions and using them as your own. In academic work, plagiarism can take many forms. It can range from copying a paragraph from someone else's published or unpublished work without proper credit to copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not.

It is essential to be aware that all of these forms of plagiarism are illegal under U.S. copyright law; they are severe violations of academic honesty policies at most colleges and universities. They can result in serious penalties at any school.

The consequences of plagiarism are severe for both you and the person who owns the original work. For example, if your teacher discovers that you plagiarized on an assignment, you may receive a failing grade on that paper or fail the class altogether. If you commit plagiarism in college, you may face suspension or even expulsion.

In places and professions that conduct research, like colleges and universities, plagiarism can result in being fired or not being hired because of your reputation or academic record. In these situations, it's not worth it to save time by copying someone else's ideas without giving them proper credit.

To avoid plagiarism, you must understand plagiarism. The idea is easy enough to understand: using someone else's thoughts, words, or ideas without crediting the original author. The hard part is knowing how to avoid it in your writing when you intend to do the right thing and cite sources appropriately.

Why Do Students Plagiarize?

Sometimes students plagiarize because they don't know any better—they don't realize that what they are doing is wrong. Other times, people may not understand how much information needs to be cited or how to cite that information appropriately. Some people intend to cheat by passing off someone else's work as their own.

Most of the time, however, plagiarism occurs when writers are trying to meet deadlines and feel pressured for time. This can lead them to copy sentences from sources and pass them off as their work. They may also paraphrase sources too closely, accidentally copying some of the language and structure used by the writer of the original work.

They may also simply want a shortcut to a good grade. They may not have time to do the work themselves, or they may be desperate to make up for other poor grades, perhaps because of illness or personal stress. They may be procrastinators who have left their work to the last minute and then feel that they have no choice but to cheat to get it done on time. Students under pressure from parents or teachers to maintain a certain grade point average can be especially vulnerable here.

They lack confidence in their ability to express themselves clearly, correctly, and coherently in written form on the topic at hand. This is especially true if English is not their first language, though it can also affect native speakers if they lack confidence in their writing skills.

Finally, some students plagiarize because they are lazy.

2. Use Your Own Words

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to copy-and-paste chunks of other people’s work into your own. You might feel like there’s not much difference between what you want to say and what someone else said—but even if it’s true, or even if there are only very slight differences, it all becomes plagiarism. The key, then, is to use your own words (or direct quotes) as much as possible.

When paraphrasing, make sure you use your own words and ideas. For example, if you’re summarizing a chapter or paragraph on population growth and how it affects carbon emissions, explain it with your own words rather than simply copy-and-pasting what other authors said. When creating an outline or plan for your paper, think of ways to include different examples that fit your topic: don’t just rehash information provided by others.

If you use direct quotes from other sources, be sure to cite your source. Just like with paraphrasing, if you’re going to quote a source directly, be sure that you attribute it appropriately. You don’t want your paper marked as plagiarized just because you forgot to cite a few direct quotes!

3. Avoid Paraphrasing Too Much

In order to avoid plagiarism, it is important that you do not just "paraphrase" too much. Too much paraphrasing is bad. You should be careful not to copy more than what you need to and then write it in your own words. If you are not careful, you might end up copying a lot of stuff and then just putting it in your own words. This is not good practice.

You should also try to be careful that you paraphrase the right thing. When I say paraphrase the right thing, I mean that you should make sure it says what you want it to say. A lot of people will just take a sentence and then try to change the words around so that it says something completely different. This is not a good idea because oftentimes you will end up changing the whole meaning of the sentence.

It is also important that you do not put too much emphasis on one word or phrase when paraphrasing. You don't want your readers to think that one word or phrase is more important than another. For example, if you are trying to explain why the sky is blue, don't just focus on one word like "the sky." Instead, focus on how all of the colors in nature contribute to making up our perception of the sky.

4. Acknowledge Sources Clearly

As a novice in the field of writing, it is imperative that you acknowledge your sources in a clear and concise manner. This is mandatory if you want to avoid plagiarism in your paper. Plagiarism or copying someone else’s work without acknowledging its source can not only make a negative impression on your reader but also can affect your grades very badly.

Plagiarism is considered as an act of stealing someone else’s ideas, thoughts, discoveries and works. When you write something and take help from any published material whether it is a book or the internet then don’t forget to mention the name of the sources from where you have taken help. It will help your readers to differentiate between your own work and borrowed work.

In order to cite the sources properly, keep these points in mind:

  • Always cite the source when you quote somebody or take help from any source
  • Whenever you paraphrase someone’s ideas or borrow someone’s words, give reference to that person by mentioning his/her name
  • Whenever you use internet as a source for getting information, mention the URL (the address) of the website along with date on which you accessed it
  • Always maintain consistency with regard to your style of citation whether you are citing a quotation, paraphrasing someone’s work or borrowing ideas from somewhere else.

5. Format Properly Using APA, MLA, etc. Rules

Before you start writing any of your papers for school, it is important to make sure that you should familiarize yourself with all of the different styles of formatting. The problem is that many students do not know how to format properly. There are a few different styles of formatting out there and each one has its own set of rules and regulations. If you are not careful, you could accidentally break these rules without even realizing it. This will leave you open to accusations of plagiarism and can also lead to you getting into trouble with your professors or administrators.

The best way to avoid this situation is to simply be careful about what you write in your paper. It is easy for someone to use this information against you when they see it in your paper. However, if you take the time to learn the correct way to format then this should not be an issue for you at all.

There are many different styles out there, but the two main ones are MLA and APA. These two are the most common and they both have a set of rules that they follow in order to ensure that no one is plagiarizing their work.

It is also important that you understand what each style means when it comes to formatting your paper. If you do not know what some of these terms mean then you should look them up so that you know exactly what they mean before writing anything in your paper. This is important because if someone does decide to accuse you of plagiarism then they will be able to prove it easily if they have proof.

Make sure that your paper is properly formatted before submitting it for review by any professor or administrator. Make sure that everything is in its proper place so that no one can accuse you of plagiarizing anyone else

6. Cite Facts and Opinions Equally

The main thing to keep in mind is that when you're writing an essay, you're trying to make a point. This point is best supported by facts and opinions that come from reliable sources. When you cite these sources, whether they're quotes or paraphrases, you want the reader to know where this information came from.

Oftentimes, students will take a fact and use it in their papers without giving credit. "On average, Americans eat one hundred pounds of meat each year." A student might use this fact without telling the reader where he/she got it from. If you simply used this fact without citing your source, then you would be plagiarizing.

You also want to credit opinions you agree with. For example: "Americans are lazy." This is a very strong opinion that may not be true for everyone. If you agree with this opinion, then make sure to cite the person who said it!

Another reason people find it hard to cite sources is that they feel like this attribution is just a way to protect themselves from getting in trouble. They might think, "I don't need to give credit to Einstein for saying E=mc², because everyone knows Einstein said that." But you do need to cite it. That's because attribution isn't just about protecting yourself from accusations of plagiarism. It's about giving the reader the information she needs to follow your train of thought and learn more if she wants.

When you write something down, you have to decide whether it's a fact or an opinion. Facts are things that can be verified to be true or untrue. Opinions are things people believe but can't necessarily be proven true or false (like whether a movie is good).

You should cite every fact and opinion you use in an essay, even if it's something that "everyone knows." And you should cite both kinds of information with exactly the same level of detail: author name, article title, book title, publisher name, publication date, page numbers... the whole nine yards.

7. Use Quotation Marks When Quoting

When students use the internet for research, they often copy and paste material directly into their papers. This is fine as long as they enclose these copied sections in quotation marks. If they fail to do so, they are guilty of plagiarism.

Quotation marks indicate that the text between them is not your own writing. When you copy and paste material directly from a source to your paper, you must use quotation marks. The only exception is if the material is common knowledge. For example, in the sentence "In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence," no quotation marks are necessary because this statement is considered common knowledge. In addition, quotes that are fewer than four typed lines long do not need to be set off with a separate blocked paragraph but can be included within your own paragraph, with quotation marks around them.

The rules for putting quotation marks around quoted material also applies to paraphrased material—that is, information from a source that you have reworded in your own words. You should still put quotation marks around the paraphrased section because it was taken from an outside source.

If you do not use quotations or set off paraphrases with quotation marks when appropriate, you are guilty of plagiarism—that is, intentionally trying to pass someone else’s work as your own. There are many ways that students can accidentally commit plagiarism without even realizing it.

8. Be Creative in Writing Your Own Unique Text

One of the most important things in academic writing is to be creative. It is only logical that creativity helps avoid plagiarism because if you are creative, you will not need to copy. If you do not have to copy other people's ideas, then you are far less likely to inadvertently plagiarize them.

There are many ways of being creative in academic writing. First of all, you can create a new idea and use it in your work. There are many different ideas available for students who want to get good grades. Students can always find new ideas for their papers online or by reading different books and magazines.

The other way of being creative is to take an old idea and make it your own by using your own words and expressing yourself in a new way. This is much better than copying someone else's words or ideas because it gives you more freedom with your topic and allows you to express yourself in a new way that has never been used before.

After all, if you have an original idea, you have less need to plagiarize from others. And if you write the resulting paper in your own words and style, others are less likely to accuse you of plagiarism.

9. Don't Use Wikipedia

You should not use Wikipedia when writing your paper if you wish to avoid plagiarism. There are two primary reasons why you would not want to use Wikipedia:

The first is that anyone can edit Wikipedia. Although the vast majority of edits are constructive, sometimes editors make mistakes or intentionally insert false information. For this reason, using Wikipedia as a source is generally discouraged by the site's administrators.

If you do decide to use it as a source, you should always check that any specific statement that is important to your work has multiple independent sources (and preferably one of these sources should be from a reputable publication); and then cite those sources rather than the article itself.

The second reason is that many types of publications discourage or forbid the use of Wikipedia as a source. Such publications include peer-reviewed journals, textbooks and some university lecture notes. Carefully read your assignment instructions or look up the publication's policy before choosing to use it as a source for an essay or paper.

So if plagiarism is something that bothers you (and I hope it does), then don't use Wikipedia as a reference for your papers. It's a compendium of sources, not a source itself. Instead, use Google or Google Scholar to find original sources and quotes, as well as Wikipedia articles on those sources and quotes. That way, when you write your essays, you can take notes on individual quotes and sources instead of notes on entire paragraphs written by someone else.

10. Avoid Free Plagiarism Checkers

If you wish to avoid plagiarism in your work, this is one of the most crucial things to remember.

Plagiarism checkers come in different varieties but they all function the same way. They compare your written content with the internet and other articles that have been published online and tell whether or not it is original.

The accuracy of a plagiarism checker depends on the size of its database and the algorithm it uses for scanning. Most free plagiarism checkers use significantly smaller databases than paid ones, so they can’t accurately detect plagiarism. Free plagiarism checkers also often don’t have effective algorithms for identifying both direct and paraphrased plagiarism.

While free online plagiarism checkers may seem like a tempting option at first, they can be highly unreliable and even cost you time and money in the long run. Here are some reasons why paid plagiarism checkers are more accurate:

  • Paid plagiarism checkers use more comprehensive databases, which means they can more accurately identify instances of plagiarism.
  • Paid plagiarism checkers use more sophisticated algorithms to detect both direct text overlap (copied text) and paraphrasing (rephrased text).
  • Paid plagiarism checkers are usually based on advanced artificial intelligence, which means their results become more accurate over time.

Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Muhammad Rafiq