BY DAVID GUTIERREZ
The meaning of the term “plagiarism” is fairly flexible – it can range from wholesale copy/pasting of someone else’s text and passing it for your work to much vaguer situations like using someone else’s ideas and presenting them as your own without referring to the original author. Plagiarism is an academic dishonesty, and depending on your academic level it may be a cause for many unpleasant consequences, ranging from failing grades to outright expulsion.
Many students continue to resort to it despite all potential problems. Some do it because “everybody does it,” others, because they’ve started small and got bold because they weren’t found out, still others say they just cannot cope with their work otherwise. But one thing is certain: with every passing year copy/pasting turns into a worse and worse idea. So how does one eliminate it from one’s life? Let’s take a look.
1. Make Sure to Give Credit
If you use somebody else’s ideas in your writing, make sure you mention their names and refer to the exact sources of your information. For that matter, always keep track of the points of view and thoughts that appear in your writing.
2. Use a Plagiarism Checker
Probably the most obvious way to make sure you never get accused of plagiarism is to mechanically check your work for possible matches. This may be a good idea even if you have written everything on your own without even thinking of lifting fragments from other sources – sometimes you may unconsciously copy entire phrases from books and articles you’ve read previously, and they may be enough for an accusation of plagiarism. To avoid this and make sure your paper does not have anything “stolen”, try using a plagiarism checker.
3. Don’t Think You Won’t Be Found out
Technological possibilities for discovering cases of plagiarism are getting better and readily available with every passing year. While twenty years ago you could’ve probably been found only in case your teacher read the source you lifted contents from, today the process is automated, and even a high school teacher can check any number of texts for copy/paste in a matter of minutes. The likelihood of success decreases while risks remain the same – it just isn’t worth it anymore.
If you’ve found information that is just perfect for your assignment, there is no need just to copy/paste it. Try to put it in your own words, rearrange things so that ideas follow each other in a different order. Make sure you don’t copy more than two words in a row, and best of all – express the same general idea without following the original’s structure. On advanced academic levels, this method may still not be enough – if you rework a fairly well-known piece of work, it will be noticed.
If you use more than one source of information and freely combine and shuffle data from all of them, it is unlikely to be considered plagiarism. Don’t restate ideas – draw from all your sources and present the findings in a way that doesn’t resemble the originals.
6. When not Sure, Refer to the Author
If you are not sure if the idea is attributed to a particular author, better play it safe and give him credit for it. Some pieces of data are too distinct and simply paraphrasing them just won’t cut it.
All in all, there are many ways to avoid using plagiarism and still heavily use other people’s work as supporting material. Apply some amount of creativity, and you will be able to do so without much hassle.
David Gutierrez has worked in the field of web design since 2005. Right now he started learning Java in order to get second occupation. His professional interests defined major topics of his articles. David writes about new web design software, recently discovered professional tricks and also monitors the latest updates of the web development.