This handout provides 5 practical ways to avoid plagiarism. To give you an opportunity to practice proofreading, we have left a few spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors in the text. See if you can spot them! If you spot the errors correctly, you will be entitled to a 10% discount.
During student orientation seminars in undergraduate and graduate programs, plagiarism is discussed as an ethical issue in academic writing. Given that the consequences of plagiarism, which may serve as a deterrent, range from mere caution to failure in a course, few students would intentionally decide to submit plagiarized essays. Most students, however, still commit the offense of plagiarism because of various misconceptions about plagiarism. As we discussed in the article titled, “What is Plagiarism | How to Avoid?” the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) considers plagiarism a criminal offense. According to the ORI, plagiarism is considered “both the theft or misappropriation of intellectual property and the substantial unattributed textual copying of another’s work.” Since the consequences of plagiarism can be fatal, this blog seeks to discuss 5 practical ways to avoid plagiarism in academic essays.
1 – Do not ‘copy and paste’ – comprehend and make notes instead
Most students would usually ‘copy and paste’ directly from source articles, with (out) few modifications. For students intending to avoid plagiarism, this practice still results in unintentional plagiarism. Once the student writes his/her essay directly from the reference material, he/she is likely to repeat what has been provided. The best practice to avoid plagiarism should, thus, be comprehension and note-taking. After reading from a source, the student should test comprehension by making notes, before proceeding to write essays. If the student is able to make concise notes, it indicates that he/she understood the author’s intended message properly. By implication, a student is less likely to plagiarize, if he/she understands the information provided in the text. (Click here to read about the importance of academic referencing and citation).
2 – Paraphrase appropriately
Paraphrasing has been inappropriately touted as the primary way to avoid plagiarism. However, unless it is done appropriately, paraphrasing sentences from source articles and websites without due acknowledgment still counts as plagiarism. This is because plagiarism does not only focus on sentence structure and style but primarily on the idea communicated in the sentences. In avoiding plagiarism, the student, using his/her voice, must express an author’s idea by giving a clear impression that the idea is that of another person and not that of the student. Merely changing an active sentence to a passive sentence or using synonyms exposes one to the risk of unintentional plagiarism. Finally, for every citation made in an essay, the author should crosscheck the resource to ensure that the ideas have been accurately expressed in the essay, as discussed by the primary authors.
3 – Acknowledge authors appropriately
Within specific fields, certain facts are commonplace and do not need to be cited. However, for citation purposes, students sometimes write certain statements first, before searching for articles within which such information is likely provided. In such instances, one may end up acknowledging an author unduly. For avoiding plagiarism, the writer must, by due diligence, search for the primary authors or original sources of some of these accepted facts, if need be that some information must be cited. For example, in a research article, another author may have been cited, but some students would usually cite the information as though the author of this research article is the original source. These may also count for plagiarism; therefore, students must acknowledge appropriately to avoid unintentional plagiarism. (Click here to read about citation styles and which citation style to use).
4 – Cite resources early
As good academic writing practices, organization, and citation of resources also help in avoiding plagiarism. As discussed already, one key element of plagiarism is the appropriation of credit to an undue author. If an author waits till the editing and proofreading phase, he/she may likely mix-up the citation of different statements. During the note-making stage (as described above), students must make a conscious effort to cite information concurrently. In doing so, omission and mixing-up of citations may likely be avoided.
5 – Use tools designed to avoid plagiarism
One final check to ensure that one is not implicated is the use of plagiarism checkers. These tools provide reports on the extent of similarity of the essay with other published information on online databases. Portions of the essay deemed plagiarized are highlighted by these checkers to help authors make appropriate changes. Some editing and proofreading services, such as Best Edit & Proof, also include plagiarism checking in their services. Since these are experts in academic writing, they will help in avoiding plagiarism and advice on how not to falter in the future.
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