How To Avoid Plagiarism

For practically all of us, there have been many times when writing on a particular subject matter has meant reaching into the endless archives of the internet to pull out inspiration. During many of those times, inspiration has meant the entire article. But when writing on such topics, it’s fairly easy to fall into the plagiarism trap, creating room for a generally lower quality write-up. But what exactly is this plagiarism thing and how can you avoid it?

Plagiarism – according to Plagiarism.org – “is a common (and often misunderstood) problem that is often the result of a lack of knowledge and skills.” Different statements from the Merriam-Webster dictionary indicate that plagiarism involves trying to pass off someone’s knowledge, ideas or creation as your own.

Although plagiarism is a trap easily fallen into, there are ways to avoid it.

One of the simplest and most efficient ways is to paraphrase. Paraphrasing entails reading the article or source material and writing it in your own words. This way, you’re not only creating a new article but by writing in your own words, you’re also actively understanding the concept, which leads to opening different pathways through which you can express the content in a way that’s unique to you. Try to make sure your version of the material doesn’t have more than two words in a row copied verbatim from the source. And if you can’t, use quotation marks.

Another very effective way to avoid plagiarism is to cite the source material. Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided by citing the source material. Whatever type of document you’re writing will have format guidelines. Follow them, detailing the author(s) and date of the publication in the citation. Citing sources strengthens your write-up by highlighting your own ideas, showing that you understand and process the other source’s information, and supporting ideas that are completely yours. Note that improper citing also constitutes plagiarism, so make sure the information you’re citing is accurate. No effort is too much in making sure your article is as far from plagiarism issues as possible.

Citing quotes is another way to avoid plagiarism. It is somewhat different from paraphrasing the source material. It usually involves noting the page number (for books) or the paragraph number (for web pages).

Quoting, which is always denoted with air quotes – should also be considered. And if you’re going to quote a source, you might as well do it properly. Use the quote exactly as it appears. Most times, quotes are required to be small, which is where paraphrasing comes in. And although the process takes time and effort, it’s always worth it in the end. Also note that quoting has to be done correctly, or plagiarism allegations could come up.

Although it might sound weird, using the material you have used before, is called self-plagiarism, and is not acceptable. Citing yourself can also be very helpful. Cite your work as you would any other, with the correct information about the date of the publication, the author – who in this case is you – and other aforementioned notes.

Referencing is one of the most important ways to avoid plagiarism. More importantly, by noting clearly who said what, when and where, you’re saving yourself from a potential hot mess. Although most document formatting guidelines allow you to include a “references” page at the end of your document, check with your advisor/institution. Your reference must include very specific information about the author(s) name(s), the date, title and source of the publication. Make sure to follow your document’s specified instructions, as you’ll want to get this part correctly. Not all sources are worth citing though because not all sources are credible. Make sure you know the author of the source material, where they sourced their material from, and when it was written. These are all important steps in avoiding plagiarism.

Understanding the Subject Matter

While the aforementioned methods of avoiding plagiarism in write-ups are necessary, there is a more fulfilled way of doing it. And that is, understanding the material you’re writing about. When you understand the content you’re writing about, plagiarism becomes less of a likely offense. In honor of that, here are 3 ways to thoroughly understand the written content.

  • Don’t stick to one source material: When trying to understand something, especially something new to you, take care to visit multiple sources and take notes. These notes will actively engage your brain, helping you understand, and can prove to be relevant source material for your article(s).
  • Read till you understand: While it might be tempting to skip whatever material, you don’t understand to just copy, doing so will eventually lead to more skips. And the more you copy from the source, the more likely it is that your content will get flagged. Strive to at least get the basic knowledge of the subject matter.
  • Discuss with others: Sometimes, the source content just won’t cooperate. It could be poorly written, or give little attention to the reader. But there will be someone else who understands the subject matter. Find that someone else, and ask them to teach you. This will not only help you understand the subject but also build your people skills and help “someone” understand the subject even more. A win-win situation, if you will.

 

Plagiarism is like a plague that affects most contents on the web, and even anything written or created. But in order for the web to actually remain informative and foster budding creative work, creatives must be allowed to create for the sake of it, without fear that their work will be taken by someone else, without following due processes. And as writers and creative professionals – or anyone who’s trying to turn in that research paper – we must make sure to protect the rights of the creative, whilst also promoting our own ideas and creative abilities in a way that benefits both sides. Hopefully, this article has shown you how this can be achieved. In all, always try to avoid plagiarism in any way you can.