How to not Plagiarize
Here are the 10 rules you should follow to avoid any kind of plagiarism in your essay or a research paper.
1. Use quotation marks
Use quotation marks each time you copy a sentence directly from the source. This also relates to specific phrases the authors use.
You should not reference or use quotation marks for:
- titles of cited articles and books,
- conventional designations (chronic low-back pain, cognitive impairment),
- preferred bias-free language (persons with disabilities)
- discipline-specific terms and phrases (sexual harassment, material culture, cognitive domain)
2. Don’t overuse direct quotations
Even if you present the text in quotation marks, limit the amount of quotations to 10% of the general word count. Exclusion to the rule may be citing literature and laws (specify the expectations with your professor).
3. Use your own words
When summarising and paraphrasing the source text, don’t use the same sentence structure and words to render the author’s idea. To avoid plagiarism, analyze what you want to say and write in your own words. It will also help you maintain the consistency of your language use and style.
4. Cite both quotes and paraphrases
Cite every piece of information, which is not your own idea or general knowledge, no matter if you quote the source word-for-word or paraphrase.
Here are the samples of general knowledge that you don’t need to cite:
- generally accepted facts available in the public domain: dates of birth and death of prominent people, generally accepted dates of military, political, literary, and other historical events.
- field-specific common knowledge: facts, theories, and methods that readers within that discipline are sure to be familiar with, e.g. Piaget’s development stages.
5. Include personal input
Make sure that the quoted and paraphrased ideas make a smaller part of your essay (30-60% depending on your year of studies). Be sure to include your original interpretation and evaluation of the cited material, your inferences on the topic, examples of how the information may be applied to the given context, etc.
6. Make in-text citations match the references
Make sure that all the sources cited in the text have the corresponding entries on the Works Cited/ References page and vice versa: all the referenced sources are indeed mentioned in-text.
7. Cite all types of the sources
If you cite an image, a film, a lecture, a song or any other type of material, created by someone else, it is necessary to cite and reference it too. For example, here is the guide how to cite such sources in APA and MLA.
8. Adhere to a particular formatting style
Following the detailed formatting style requirements, you will not forget to include the necessary information about the source and will maintain consistency in your citations and references.
9. Do not fake your sources
To write an essay without plagiarising, do read and analyse the original sources. You cannot just read Wikipedia and cite all the sources it cites. Such paraphrasis will be poor and you risk misquoting the original ideas. If absolutely necessary, use a special format for indirect citations, e.g. (as qtd. in …)
10. Use plagiarism checkers
Use plagiarism detection software and correct the instances of poor paraphrasis that the tool highlights. Yes/no feedback or a mere indication of the plagiarism level will not help you do this; thus, use the checkers that highlight all similarities. I consistently use Plagscan to check papers submitted for editing. The amount of plagiarism above 4% is not acceptable in academic writing.
You may find tips on how to quote, paraphrase and summarize in this post: