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What Plagiarism is and 7 Ways to Avoid it in Your Papers

You’ve probably heard the term “plagiarism” from your personal tutor or instructors. It’s everywhere in the wide field of academia. So, what is it, and how can you avoid it in your papers? Here’s everything you need to know about this type of academic dishonesty.

So, what is it?

The 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.”

While the University of Oxford defines it 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.”

What these definitions infer is that whether you seek people’s consent to use their work or not, you MUST acknowledge them through citations. Also, cheating does not only occur when you steal other people’s entire works but ideas and words as well.

But it’s not all about using other people’s work. Did you know you can plagiarize your own work? Yes, we call it self-plagiarism (spoiler), and you’ll learn about it by the end of this article.


Is Plagiarism a Global Problem?

Four 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?

Surprisingly, 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 it 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, and dissertations.

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

Before exploring measures students can employ to avoid this academic crime, let’s understand its types first.

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Types of Plagiarism in Academic Writing

Plagiarism comes in many forms, some of which are intentional while others are accidental. Let’s dive into five of its most common types or categories:

I. Global Plagiarism

Global plagiarism involved passing off or stealing someone else’s entire speech or text as your own work. For instance, instead of writing your research paper, you can find one online, download it, change the author’s name, and turn it in for grading.

Frankly, it is the most serious type, and it is usually intentional. That’s why it attracts severe consequences, including expulsion, suspension, automatic failing of a course, or low marks.

However, it’s easier to avoid – just write original papers.

II. Verbatim plagiarism

Due to the severity of global plagiarism, some students commit verbatim or direct plagiarism by copying someone else’s words (paragraph, sentences, or phrases) into their works without attributing them.

Others prefer to copy some paragraphs and change a few words to avoid being traced.

While writing your papers, you can always avoid verbatim plagiarism by quoting words or phrases copied from other sources. However, always use correct citations, and don’t overuse the quotes.

More so, can cite your papers in APA, MLA, Harvard, or Chicago, or any other referencing style based on the professor’s guideline.

III. Paraphrasing plagiarism

Paraphrasing refers to putting someone else’s piece of text in your own words. And it’s an acceptable practice in academic writing. However, it could result in paraphrasing plagiarism should you fail to acknowledge the primary source.

The fact that you’ve presented ideas in your own words doesn’t make you the original author. You still need to include citations correctly.

More so, translating another person’s work without citing still counts as plagiarism.

So, avoiding this form of academic fraud is easy, use citations appropriately.

IV. Patchwork plagiarism

Patchwork, also referred to as, mosaic plagiarism, refers to copying phrases, ideas, sentences, or paragraphs from different sources to form a new text.

This is one of the approaches students use to avoid being caught. But online tools like Turnitin can still detect it.

However, you can always avoid it by rephrasing the text and citing the primary sources. Make sure you use reliable sources and include them in the reference list.

V. Self Plagiarism

Did you know that reusing your previously published or submitted work is a form of plagiarism? Yes, we call it self-plagiarizing.

While using ideas from your previous work is not a bad thing, always make the source known by including citations.


How to Avoid Plagiarism in your Papers

The consequences of submitting academic papers with a high similarity index vary with institutions, academic level, and plagiarism type.

For instance, 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 varies with the institution. However, these 7 tips will save you the embarrassment or consequences of submitting plagiarized papers.

1. 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 cheat. You could also lack time to proofread and ensure your paper is cited appropriately.

2. Cite Other People’s Works

Are you familiar with your university’s citation style? Is it APA format, MLA format, Harvard, or Chicago format? Does your school have a unique referencing style?

You still 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), and 2019 is the year of publication.

If you are unsure how to format your in-text citations or bibliography list, consult freelance writers online.

Still, 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 them 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 ideas? Let us have a close look at your draft, and make it look perfect.

However, I am not talking about grammar checking tools and other proofreading software. I mean, the actual reading of the essay and ensuring everything is in order.

4. Quote External Sources

You are permitted to use a few direct quotations, but you MUST acknowledge their source. Failure to which the level of similarity index will be unacceptable.

Additionally, 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. But, as earlier mentioned, you must include citations.

Consult with the essay instructions or the professor to see if quotes are permitted. Please note that 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 ask your tutors about the acceptable percentage of quotes.

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5. Don’t Copy-Paste, Paraphrase

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.

In most cases, unless you are writing reflective essays (very rare), you’d be expected not to copy-paste but paraphrase text. Be sure to add value.

For instance, criticize rather than summarize, 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 has 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. Either way, understanding the types of plagiarism, how to avoid it and the consequences will help you avoid it.

7. Use 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 online checking software or tools.

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 submit your final paper as 100% plagiarized.

Turnitin is the most used tool by freelance writers. And, it’s mong the tool that we use alongside Scribbr, Grammarly (Premium), among others.

So, if you know how to use these tools, go ahead and check the similarity index level in your paper.

But if you’re not an expert, worry no more, since SmartWrite offers plagiarism checking and removal services to learners globally at an affordable rate. We help students to proofread, edit or rewrite their papers, among other services.

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Conclusion

In brief, the cost of turning in plagiarized work is severe – including suspension, failing the course, or getting expelled.

Hence, 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
  • Always use quotes correctly
  • Know how to paraphrase without plagiarising
  • consult with your professor or experienced writers
  • Use online checking tools or services

While plagiarism comes in many forms, the most common ones include:

  • Global Plagiarism
  • Verbatim plagiarism
  • Paraphrasing plagiarism
  • Patchwork plagiarism
  • Self Plagiarism

Let us know if you have any questions, or you need help removing plagiarism from your papers.