“If you steal from one author it's plagiarism; if you steal from many it's research.” - Wilson Mizner

Almost all research builds upon research already done by others and to put forward a logical and sound argument, you have to look at the work already completed by others in the field.

Homework, essays, dissertations, and projects often require students to do some research. However, you can’t just copy and paste what you find. Rephrasing, rewriting, and citing reference are all part of it.

Unfortunately, plagiarism happens quite a lot in academia. Whether it’s due to it being an easy solution, the majority of students admit to having copied someone else’s work and most teachers have received homework that’s been copied.

Now with the internet, it’s never been easier to plagiarise. However, you can always reference somebody else’s work. Intellectual honesty and integrity is part of doing your research and there are academic solutions to using other authors’ work, but there are also consequences to plagiarising.

In this article, we’ll be looking at plagiarism, what it is, and how you can avoid it.

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What Is Plagiarism?

Throughout your schooling, you’ll likely be given work to do at home. Students may be tasked with researching a topic while also crediting their sources.

What is plagiarism?
Plagiarism is essentially taking someone else's work and attempting to pass it off as your own. (Source: StockSnap)

You shouldn’t copy, plagiarise, or try to pass off somebody’s work as your own. If you’re found to have plagiarised, you could be in very hot water and run the risk of being accused of cheating and may even have your work invalidated.

So what exactly is plagiarism?

From a legal standpoint, in many countries plagiarism falls under copyright. Essentially, by taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own, you’re infringing on the copyright of their work.

Put simply, plagiarism is pretending that somebody else’s work is your original work without crediting the source of your research, ideas, or concepts. A lot of students don’t think what they’re doing is that big a problem, but there are ethical concerns to consider if they receive a good grade through plagiarism.

To avoid plagiarism, there are a few things that you need to reference:

  • Quotes
  • Ideas
  • Passages from an original text
  • Documents
  • Images
  • Illustrations and diagrams
  • Websites

As you’ll have understood, duplicated and stolen content is not acceptable in academia.

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The Most Common Types of Plagiarism

There are a few ways to plagiarise: You can copy something verbatim, rephrase an idea as if it’s your own, or submit work that you didn’t complete yourself.

Which are the most common types of plagiarism?
Copying and pasting is a common way to plagiarise, but incorrectly referencing another author or source is quite common. (Source: Engin_Akyurt)

While you shouldn’t ever do this, when it comes to national exams, the consequences will be severe and suspicions of plagiarism are dealt with seriously.

So how can you avoid accidental plagiarism?

Are these words mine?

If they’re not, should I reference the author?

Even if it’s coincidental, your work might be flagged as plagiarism. Even if the words are original, you need to ask yourself whether the ideas are your own. If they’re not, it might still be plagiarism.

Work can be considered plagiarism even if the words haven’t been directly copied, which is why you need to cite reference.

As a reminder, here are a few techniques that would be considered plagiarism.

  • Using the exact words from somebody else’s work and presenting it as if it were your own.
  • Copying and pasting content to rewrite it.
  • Mixing direct quotations into your writing without distinguishing the two.
  • Taking information from several sources without referencing where you got the information from.
  • Copying your work.
  • Paying somebody else to do the work for you and submitting it as if you did it.

Now you should have a clearer idea of what plagiarism involves.

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Referencing in Research

A lot of students are aware of what plagiarism is when it comes to directly copying work. However, some students get caught out by not correctly referencing their sources.

You need to reference your sources in academic work and research and we recommend that students reference as they go rather than trying to organise all their references once they’re finished.

Whether it’s from books, magazines, websites, newspapers, or scientific journals, everything that you’ve borrowed or used should be mentioned as references as well as in your bibliography.

Whenever you use someone else’s work or ideas, include the correct format of referencing next to it. This means that you won’t miss any references out when you’re finished.

You’ll also want a bibliography at the end of your work. Fortunately, there are tools and software solutions to help you create and manage your sources. These tools can make referencing much easier and can help make sure that you don’t miss any of the sources in your work.

By the time you reach university, this is a practice you’ll want to be quite familiar with.

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Crediting the Original Author

Students must get into the habit of referencing the original authors. Teachers agree that good research comes from using quality sources and they’ll want to see the sources that you used to judge the quality of your research.

How do you reference?
There are different referencing styles so make sure you use the one that your academic establishment approves of. (Source: Free-Photos)

If you read any academic papers, you’ll see how this is done.

A lot of anti-plagiarism tools will check that the referencing is done correctly and, in some cases, they’ll highlight errors allowing you to correct them before your work is flagged as plagiarism.

Most academic referencing is done as follows:

  • Listing the sources used in a bibliography that included the name of the author, the title of the work, and the year of publication.
  • Direct quotations are included in quotation marks or separate from the body of the text using different formatting with a reference in the text or as a footnote.
  • Everything referenced will be included in the bibliography at the end of the work.

If you need help, most teachers will be familiar with the type of referencing that the establishment accepts and which programs can help you. However, different schools and universities prefer different referencing styles so make sure you’re following the right protocol.

There’s a wealth of information on different referencing styles if you need help and, of course, tutors and professors can also guide you through it.

Take Care of Your References

Here are a few tips to make sure that your referencing is correct and above board.

  • Use software to manage your references as and when you include them in your work.
  • Include a reference as soon as you rephrase somebody else’s work.
  • Make sure the references you use are reputable and pertinent to your work.
  • Use in-text references, footnotes, and a bibliography following the academic establishment’s preferred style.
  • Ensure that direct quotes and references also follow the correct format.

By being methodical in your referencing, you’ll avoid plagiarism.

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Checking for Plagiarism

You must check for plagiarism in any work that you’re planning on submitting. As we mentioned, academic establishments take plagiarism very seriously.

How can you check for plagiarism?
There is software you can use to see if your work is original before submitting it to be marked. (Source: StartupStockPhotos)

Keep in mind that almost anything you submit will probably be checked for plagiarism.

There are free tools online that can check if your work will be flagged as plagiarism. If you’ve forgotten to cite a reference or have made a mistake in your referencing, you can check for this before submitting the work and being punished for plagiarism.

A lot of universities use digital plagiarism-checking software on almost all work that’s been submitted and these tools can show how much of the work is original, where certain quotes originate, and whether or not the referencing is correct. Some universities allow students to use these services and tools to check their work before they submit it.

Don’t hesitate to contact your professors if you have any doubts as plagiarism is taken very seriously. Getting caught can result in your work being refused or even expulsion from your course or school. Before you submit your work, make sure you check it yourself for plagiarism.

These free tools can help you avoid being punished for accidental plagiarism. The more advanced tools come with free trials. After all, it would be a shame to fail your course because some software flagged your original work as plagiarism.

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