How to Avoid Plagiarism
You've heard it since elementary school: plagiarism is never acceptable. But knowing it's wrong doesn't mean you haven't done it-many of us don't fully understand what plagiarism is, making it possible you could be doing it inadvertently.
Here are a few common things you could be doing that most professors will consider plagiarism. Watch out for them!
Rewriting with Help from the Thesaurus
Taking a phrase or paragraph from a book or journal and switching around a few words is plagiarism. Every single thought you write in a paper should be original unless it's cited, which brings us to our next tip...
Not Citing Every Single Source
Some students are afraid to cite their sources too much. Keep in mind you can never be too careful! All direct quotes, thoughts, and ideas that have come from someone else need to be attributed properly. If not, you're getting into dangerous territory.
Yes, you can plagiarize yourself. Make sure you aren't recycling any paragraphs, sentences, or phrases you've used in previous essays. This is particularly true if you're a grad student and your work has been published. If you really think your paper would benefit from including something you wrote previously, be sure to note it came from your already published work. In other words, cite yourself.
Source mirroring is a tricky area of plagiarism. It's when your work mimics the structure, order, or phrases of your source. This is common when you've read a paragraph or short article then immediately proceed to write a paragraph or two of your own. Give the content time to sink in before you start writing and don't forget to go back and check that your work doesn't come too close to your source.
Ask When You Aren't Sure
Many people plagiarize unintentionally, but ignorance isn't an acceptable defense when you've been accused of copying someone else's work or ideas. If you're uncertain, ask! Professors and librarians can both tell you whether or not something is okay. Some schools also offer workshops on plagiarism and avoiding it - it's worth attending if your school has one.