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Avoiding Plagiarism

At some point in your education, you probably encountered a scary word called “plagiarism.” Cheating by turning in a purchased or stolen paper may come to mind, but while those are indeed examples of plagiarism, the truth is that a lot of plagiarism is accidental and isn’t intended to deceive the reader.

Following best practices in research and being informed about appropriate methods of incorporating sources can prevent you from accidentally plagiarizing.

First, a definition:

Plagiarism is the practice of using someone’s ideas and claiming them as one’s own.

But what does that look like? Plagiarism includes:

  • Using the words of a source too closely when paraphrasing
  • Copy and pasting a sentence from a source and replacing a few words with synonyms
  • Putting a source’s idea into your own words but failing to provide a citation
  • Copy and pasting sections of a text without quotation marks or a citation
Best Practices for Research 
  • Don’t copy and paste sections of a text into your paper. Instead, read the text thoroughly and then write down the ideas in your own words as though you were explaining them to someone else, as you would summarize an article or a movie to a friend.
  • Try taking notes on notecards or on separate paper.
  • Keep track of bibliographic information as you go to avoid accidentally leaving off a source.
Best Practices for Writing
  • Note the name of the author in the sentence or throughout the paragraph about the idea.
  • Add parenthetical citations or footnotes as you write. Sometimes writers finish the paper before adding citations, but this could lead to errors or accidental plagiarism.
  • Be sure to use quotation marks around key phrases and any words that are taken directly from the source.

When in doubt, add a citation, or ask a Writing Studio consultant or your professor. 

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