How To Avoid Plagiarism In Academic Writing

Academic honesty and integrity sit at the heart of the educational project, and students know that they are expected to live up to the highest standards of scholarship in all of their academic writing. However, many students find themselves on the punishing end of a plagiarism accusation, often due to errors and missteps they didn’t realize they were committing during the writing process.

In fact, nearly two-thirds of students admit to cheating on academic assignments, including committing plagiarism. An astonishing study from Rutgers University found that nearly 70 percent of its students admitted to plagiarizing, and nearly 1 in 5 Rutgers students had no regrets about committing plagiarism.

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With so much plagiarism going on, it’s no wonder that colleges and universities are going the extra mile to try to combat plagiarism in student writing. For example, many schools now routinely run papers through online plagiarism detection software. While systems like Turnitin aren’t technically designed to prove plagiarism, their similarity scores function as a way for instructors to identify problematic areas that require additional review. Despite being notified about the use of Turnitin, many students continue to engage in cut-and-paste plagiarism, resulting in an epidemic of failed papers and failed courses.

One of the major problems with students plagiarizing is that the consequences for plagiarism can be devastating to a student’s career if they were found to have plagiarized on purpose. Most schools have an escalating series of penalties ranging from failing a paper to failing a course to being dismissed from school for repeat offenses. Many students live in fear that they will make a mistake that will trigger a plagiarism investigation and a plagiarism penalty.

Six Essential Tips For Avoiding Plagiarism In Writing

So, what can you do to avoid plagiarism in academic writing? In this article, we’ll look at some best practices to help you avoid plagiarism and stay on the straight and narrow path during the paper-writing process. Here are some of our best tips for avoiding plagiarism.

Always cite sources

This might seem obvious, but the biggest reason students get into accidental plagiarism trouble is that they didn’t cite their sources. Whenever you use material that you’ve borrowed from a source you researched, provide a citation to explain where it came from. This applies whether you have quoted, paraphrased, or summarized. How you borrowed the ideas, information, or wording doesn’t matter. Always cite sources so the reader can see what you have borrowed and where.

Borrowed words always go in quotation marks

Another obvious cue is to be sure to place all of the exact language you borrow in quotation marks to clearly differentiate between your own words and those of your sources. As a general rule of thumb, place quotation marks around three or more words in a row that are borrowed from a source. You want to show that you have used your sources correctly and are giving credit to other authors for their writing. It goes without saying that every quotation should have a citation to document its source.

Limit your use of quotations and other forms of borrowing

Drawing on research is essential for any academic paper, but you also want to let your own ideas shine through. When it comes to quotations, less is more. It is generally recommended that you limit your use of quotations to about 10-15% of a paper in order to leave enough room for your own original ideas. If you have too many quotations and not enough original writing, you can end up in academic jeopardy for borrowing too much and contributing too little that is original.

Don’t look at sources while you write

One of the easiest ways to commit accidental plagiarism is to be too influenced by your sources and accidentally repeat wording, phrasing, or sentence structure as you move from your research sources to your own writing. Instead, you should take notes on your sources and then put them away before you write. That way, you’ll be writing from your own original ideas rather than letting the research influence your choice of words and phrasing. This will help to limit the chances of accidental plagiarism.

Take advantage of plagiarism detection software

Many instructors and courses utilize services like Turnitin to root out plagiarism, but these services often allow students to submit papers in draft format for plagiarism reporting before you submit the final copy for a grade. If your class and/or your service allows for draft submissions to check for plagiarism, take advantage of this service to identify problematic areas before you turn in your final copy. If you find areas are highlighted as potentially problematic, take the opportunity to revise before your instructor grades your paper.

Purchase non-plagiarized papers from a writing service

If you aren’t sure how to work with sources the right way, you can buy non-plagiarized essays (for your inspiration) that are guaranteed to be plagiarism-free from online custom writing services. When you see how an expert would approach a paper to make sure that it both addresses the assignment and remains free from plagiarism, you’ll have a good idea how to create your own paper in a way that will help you make the grade and stay on the right side of the academic honesty equation.

By putting these tips and tricks into practice, you’ll be on the right and great path to avoiding the most obvious plagiarism pitfalls so your paper can really shine!

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