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How to Avoid Plagiarism

Feb 26th 2018

Accusations of plagiarism can have far-reaching consequences. A student's academic future is put on the line.

A writer's credibility is questioned. Plagiarism is regarded as a serious offense in the academic and writing world. Redemption after plagiarizing the work of others is a long and difficult process. A tarnished reputation is hard to erase.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using the thoughts, words, and ideas of someone else without giving the source credit. Sometimes, it gets serious due to the sensitive nature of work. For example, in case of medical writers where the information has to be nothing less than accurate.

There are different types of plagiarism:

1. Overt plagiarism

Overt plagiarism is the direct copying of someone else's work without providing the source any credit. Increasingly, more students and writers are trying to pull the wool over their audience's eyes. The information age leads people to think that no one would ever guess the work is copied.

2. Mosaic plagiarism

Students and writers should avoid mosaic plagiarism. The subtleties and nuances of mosaic plagiarism are sometimes misinterpreted.

Taking a source's words and replacing some of the words with synonyms is a type of mosaic plagiarism. The borrowing of phrases without citing a source is another.

3. Accidental plagiarism

Neglecting to cite or quote sources could be interpreted as accidental plagiarism by a first-timer. Nevertheless, the ramifications can be serious. A student or writer may not have committed plagiarism intentionally.

Whether accidental or deliberate, a student or writer can experience consequences for accidental plagiarism. Knowing the rules that govern plagiarism and how to avoid it prevent accidental plagiarism.

4. Self-plagiarism

Using content from previously written and evaluated papers or articles without acknowledgment thereof constitutes self-plagiarism. Few writers and students take self-plagiarism into account. The perception is the work belongs to the writer or student and needs no referencing or citation. This is not the case.

How to avoid plagiarism in your content work

Avoiding accusations of plagiarism is easy: don't plagiarize! Understanding what constitutes plagiarism and knowing how to avoid it are valuable tools needed to keep written tasks original.

1. A matter of time

Most students and writers accused of plagiarism admit a lack of planning to complete a task. With a deadline looming, the easy thing to do is copy another person's work and submit. The advent of the internet has made it even easier.

The temptation to cut and paste to avoid late submission is high. Careful planning gives the writer enough time to avoid last-minute efforts containing plagiarized work.

2. Understand citing rules

Referring to the work of others is not plagiarism. Failing to cite the source of the work is the problem. Writers and students should give credit to the author of work used in the paper.

Students at universities and colleges usually receive a handbook with a code of conduct. Part of the code of conduct is about plagiarism.

The administration of the institution issues instructions on how to cite sources and avoid plagiarism. In the event students don't receive this critical information, guidelines should be sought from lecturers.

3. Quotations

Often, students and writers quote the words of others directly. Careful checking is necessary for this instance. The student or writer should take the time to make sure the quote is 100% accurate word for word. Misquoting a source has serious ramifications.

Quoting a source without attributing the exact words of the author could lead to accusations of plagiarism. Students and writers should make sparing use of direct quotations. Written tasks are about the expression of the individual's point of view. Too many quotations imply the writer has no original opinions to offer.

4. Paraphrase the source

Avoid direct quotations by paraphrasing the information offered by another source. Paraphrasing requires the student or writer to read, comprehend, interpret, and explain what the author has said.

The final factor in the paraphrasing process is to restate the content in the student or writer's own words. Bear in mind that paraphrasing doesn't mean citation is not necessary. The thoughts and ideas expressed still belong to the author and credit must be given.

5. Provide a reference list

For an academic paper, students should provide a reference list at the end of their work. This list shows all the resources the student used while writing the paper.

Colleges and universities have rules on reference lists and what should or should not be included. There are specific guidelines governing reference lists. Students should receive examples in class or in the institution's handbook. Rather than waiting until the last minute, students should ask a teacher or lecturer for guidance.

6. Provide a bibliography

A bibliography should not be confused with a reference list. Many people refer to reference lists and bibliographies interchangeably. A failure to distinguish between the two might lead to a grievous mistake.

A reference list is made up of the sources that were cited in the paper. A bibliography refers to all the sources the student or writer used in the course of generating the paper or task.

7. The internet qualifies as a source

Many students and writers don't give credit for information found on the internet. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism. Articles and posts on the internet are the property of the authors.

Quoting from such internet material or referring to it requires the same citation and quotation rules as information from books.

Some university and colleges may have a separate set of guidelines on information from the internet. Students should be familiar with the rules to avoid accusations of plagiarism.

8. Make use of a variety of sources

Thorough research on a topic will provide the student or writer with many sources to use. The sources should be evaluated for relevance and veracity before use.

Consulting a wide range of sources gives the student or writer more information to use. Referring to the work of one or two sources throughout a longer format paper points to a lack of planning and forethought.

The constant reference to the work of few authors could mean the student or writer is essentially rewriting the work. This shows no insight or originality and is flirting with plagiarism.

9. Double check the work before submission

Writing the paper or task and compiling a reference list and bibliography is not the end of the task. Proofreading and editing are essential. Proofreading is about looking for spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes.

Editing should take the form of checking facts and making sure relevant citations and credit are evident. The student or writer should make sure the presentation of the content of the paper is clear and informative.

Taking the time to proofread and edit puts the finishing touches on a paper and eliminates plagiarism.

10. Install a plagiarism checker

Universities, colleges, and publishers have plagiarism checking software. Submissions are run through the software to see if the student or author has plagiarized the work of others.

Bear in mind that technology gives and takes away in equal parts. The internet allows students and writers to access a lot of information. Plagiarism checkers make sure that the information is not expropriated from the original author.

Students and writers can download software too. Running a paper through a plagiarism checker can highlight issues previously overlooked.

To Conclude

Finally, students and writers should remember that papers are not about finding a whole lot of sources and cobbling the authors' opinions together. At the heart of a written paper or task are the thoughts and opinions of the student or writer. The other skill paper writing should show is the student or writer's ability to integrate the information from various sources to come up with an original perspective.

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