How to Avoid Plagiarism: Safeguards against Possible Risks

General Writing Advice

Posted: March 7, 2012

how-to-avoid-plagiarismProfessors frequently warn students about the dangers of plagiarism. It is rather difficult to imagine a person who doesn’t know about the academic penalties imposed for appropriating someone else’s ideas without mentioning the author.
 
Yet, some students don’t know how to avoid plagiarism, and as a result, their grades suffer. This article will explain how these people can overcome various pitfalls when writing their papers.

How to Avoid Plagiarism: Understanding the Term
 
If you don’t want your professor to penalize your for plagiarism, you should first ask yourself a simple question: “What is plagiarism?” Overall, this term can be understood as unauthorized appropriation of other people’s work, without giving credit to them. Plagiarism includes the following things:

  1. Representing someone else’s words as one’s own;
  2. Using the ideas of other people without mentioning their authorship;
  3. Excessive use of direct quotes in the paper;
  4. Failure to provide accurate bibliographical information about sources.

So, you need to make sure that your essays or research papers have accurate references and in-text citations.
 
How to Avoid Plagiarism: Seven Precautions That You Need to Take
 
People who have only begun their academic studies often don’t know how to avoid unintentional plagiarism. Provided that you want your papers to be plagiarism-free, you should stick to the following rules:

  1. If you use someone else’s words directly, citing thus a whole passage, you need to name the author and specify the number of the page where this passage can be found. Similarly, when you refer to the theories or ideas of other people without actually quoting them, you should give credit for each idea to its original author.
  2. Avoid excessive use of block quotations of other authors. Professors want you to express ideas in your own words. Besides, you need to make sure that quotations don’t make up more than 15 percent of your paper otherwise your paper may not earn a good grade.
  3. Make sure that every in-text citation has a corresponding reference entry, otherwise your professor may suspect you of plagiarism.
  4. Provide accurate page numbers for each of your sources. Some professors may want to check books and articles that you used and they will not be very glad to see that you just made up page numbers.
  5. Distinguish between common knowledge and plagiarism. For example, when a person says that the Earth revolves around the Sun, he or she refers to common knowledge. This is something that is known to every educated member of the community. However, when you are referring to a certain astronomic law discovered fairly recently, you should give credit to the person who discovered it. If you want to know how to avoid plagiarism, you should learn more about the concept of common knowledge.
  6. Cite every visual aid that you use in your paper. Every chart, diagram or table that you use should have a corresponding reference and in-text citation mentioning the source where you took it from.
  7. Use anti-plagiarism software that detects matches between your paper and other people’s books or articles. Some of those matches can be regarded as plagiarism, even if you didn’t actually use these sources in any way.

How to Avoid Plagiarism: What Else You Need to Know
 
Overall, these strategies will help you write papers that are free from plagiarism. Still, you need to remember that plagiarism primarily harms the student and his or her academic achievements. The above rules only show how to avoid plagiarism, but they cannot force a person to work diligently on his or her papers. This is the main issue that you should keep it in mind.

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