What is Plagiarism? Types, Checking Tools (Best) & How to Avoid It

What is plagiarism?

You’ve probably heard the term “plagiarism” from your personal tutor, professors, or instructors. It’s everywhere in the wide field of academia. So, what is it, and how can students avoid, check and remove it from their academic papers?

The University of Oxford defines plagiarism as “presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgment.” I just quoted the University’s definition, but see what I did?; I acknowledged them. Now, every reader will understand that these are not my actual words. So, to excel in academic writing, you need to understand how to cite other people’s works correctly.

Suggested Readings:

  1. What is Academic Writing? 5 Interesting Facts for Students
  2. How to Write College Essays: Extensive Guide to Boost Grades Fast
  3. Different Types of Essays with Writing Tips + Topic Examples
  4. How to Write Research Proposal – Practical Guide & Easy Format

Let’s examine why plagiarism is a global problem, and learn how to check and avoid it.

Why is Plagiarism a Global Problem

Two years ago, when I was finishing my postgrad, my advisor and close friend, Dr. Jackson, called me for a follow-up on my dissertation. He told me that the university had noticed an influx in the number of plagiarized papers in the recent ten years and had instituted a committee to look into it. Dr. Jackson was part of the committee, and the revelations of the search were overwhelmingly surprising.

What Really is the Problem?

The interim report of the 10-member committee revealed that 60 percent of the students caught in plagiarism cases didn’t have the slightest idea of what it is. Now, that’s startling! A good number of students pursuing a wide array of courses don’t understand plagiarism.

The report further pointed out that 15 percent of such students understood plagiarism. However, they did not fully comprehend how to manage it.

Why is Plagiarism a Global Problem?

A study in the United States by The Center for Academic Integrity found that almost 80% of college students admit to cheating at least once. This proves that not only are these cases fundamental in local institutions but also global.

Plagiarism is manifested in essays, coursework, projects, reports, research papers, theses, dissertations, and other types of academic works.

Most students commit plagiarism because they don’t understand how to manage an awful academic mistake. There is a need to look into the similarity index across all levels of higher education.

How Plagiarism can be Avoided

Before looking into the tips, Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines plagiarism as “To steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: to use (another’s production) without crediting the source” So, you are not being told to be 100% original. Also, cheating does not only occurs when you steal other people’s works but ideas and words as well. If you present other people’s ideas as your own, you’d be committing academic fraud.

The consequences of submitting academic papers with a high similarity index vary with institutions, academic level, and plagiarism type. If the act was intentional, you may fail a course or be instructed to redo their work by the professor. However, in a worst-case scenario, you may be suspended or expelled from the institution. Therefore, understanding how to check and avoid high similarity indexes in your papers is highly important.

The range of acceptable similarity index (plagiarism) varies with the institution. However, these 10 tips will save you the embarrassment or consequences of submitting plagiarized papers.

1. Always Start Your Paper Early

Why do you think most students submit plagiarized papers? Some forget their assignments until it’s too late, and they have to copy-paste information from the web. The easiest way to avoid this dangerous crime is to write your essay as early as possible.

By having much time to do your paper, you will pay more attention to the content. As a result, the chances of copying other peoples’ work are minimal. While working under pressure, on the other hand, you could be tempted to copy. You could also lack time to proofread and ensure your paper is cited appropriately.

2. Cite Other People’s Works Appropriately

Are you familiar with your university’s citation style? Is it APA format, MLA format, Harvard, or Chicago format? Or, does your school have its own format? You need to understand the formatting style appropriately.

In-text citation in APA and MLA format looks like…

  • APA – Watson (2019) claims that… or There is a close relation between…(Watson, 2019)
  • MLA – Watson claims that…(3). or There is a close relation between…(Watson 3)

Where the author’s last name is Watson and 3 is the page number (actual).

If you are unsure how to format your in-text citations or bibliography list, consult freelance writers online. Either way, you need some writing and formatting skills. Follow us for more academic writing articles. If you have a topic that you would like us to cover, leave a comment or email us.

3. Proofread your Papers

Why is proofreading important? How can a few minutes of scanning through your papers save your marks? By proofreading your essays thoroughly, you will identify which sources you have not cited and update appropriately. Even when you hire paper editors online, make sure you close check all the details and correct where necessary.

Which external sources have you not acknowledged? Are the citations correct? Have you cited common knowledge or your own ideas? Remember, I am not talking about grammar checking tools and other proofreading software. I mean, the actual reading of the essay and ensure everything is in order.

4. Quote External Sources Appropriately

You are permitted to use a few direct quotations, but you MUST acknowledge the source. Failure to which the level of similarity index will be unacceptable. One should always remember to enclose the quote using quotation marks (“.”). In most instances, I advise students not to use quotes but summarize the context in their own words.

Consult with the essay instructions or the professor to see if quotes are permitted. At advanced levels, like postgraduate, learners are not expected or required to use quotations. However, it depends on the type of paper that you are writing. Always consult with your seniors, which is the acceptable percentage of quotes.

5. Paraphrase rather than Copy-Paste

What is paraphrasing, and how does it not count as plagiarism? Well. It occurs when one reword another person’s sentence without it losing meaning. I’m not talking about changing a few words or using synonyms. It’s simply rewriting the text in your own words. Thus, to paraphrase a text appropriately, you must internalize it first, then reword it appropriately.

Paraphrasing becomes a problem when you give credit where it is due. You must acknowledge the person’s work appropriately – especially facts, main ideas, and examples.

In most cases, unless you are writing reflective essays, you’d be expected not to copy-paste but paraphrase text. Be sure to add value. For instance, criticize rather than summarizing, especially while writing a literature review for your research paper.

6. Consult Widely

What are the professor’s instructions (guidance) on the acceptable similarity index? Is a reference page or in-text citations required? What type of plagiarism is permitted in your institution? What are the remedies or disciplinary actions?

Every institution have anti-plagiarism policies. For instance, the American Marketing Association‘s integrity code reads…

“The penalty will be dictated by the nature of the offense and will likely include a ban on submitting to any journal published by the AMA for a period of time. All sitting Editors of AMA journals will be informed. … In extreme circumstances, the committee reserves the right to inform an author’s institution, depending on the seriousness of the offense.”

You could save much time by asking or doing your research.

7. Plagiarism Checkers

Many institutions do not permit their students to use personal plagiarism checkers. It would be the professor’s pride to note that you can write original content without having to depend on plagiarism checking software. Are you confident with your writing skills? If yes, there is no need to check the similarity index.

However, should you have some doubts, it would be better to pass your paper through some online checkers. Be careful not to save the file to the repository and submitting your final paper as 100% plagiarized.

Turnitin is the most used tool by freelance writers. It’s among the tool that we use alongside Scribbr, Grammarly (Premium), among others. If you know how to use these tools, go ahead and check the similarity index level in your paper.

Not an expert? Worry not. SmartWrite offers plagiarism checking and removal services to learners globally. We help students to proofread, edit or rewrite their papers, among other services.

Concluding Thoughts

In brief, the cost of turning in plagiarized work is severe – including suspension, failing the course, or getting expelled. Therefore, to avoid this serious academic crime, apply these tips while writing your academic papers:

  • Start your paper when you still have time.
  • Cite or reference other peoples’ works appropriately
  • Always proofread your papers
  • Use quotes correctly
  • Know how to paraphrase without plagiarising
  • consult with your professor or experienced writers
  • Use online checking tools or services

Do you now know what plagiarism is or is not? I hope so. If not, leave a comment or message us directly. Should you need Our writing services, please message us at any time as well.

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