If you are a student at a university, then it is important that you read this guide to avoid plagiarism in your work. If not, you may face sanctions that could see you fail your assignment, be suspended from your academic institution, or even be expelled.
There are some very clear rules to follow in order to ensure that you don’t plagiarise the work of other people. One must certainly not copy any text, word for word, without including quotation marks and providing a source for the work. This is a very easy thing to understand and something that most students already know.
As such, it is important to develop an understanding of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in academic writing, and in order to do this, reading academic papers and journal articles can be of help.
Being Aware of and Identifying Different Types of Plagiarism
It is probably useful to make a list of all types of plagiarism so that you can be aware of each of these types when writing your work.
Different Types of Plagiarism
- Copying text word-for-word without including quotation marks or a source
- Paraphrasing somebody else’s work without including a source
- Paying somebody to create a piece of work for you on a given subject
- Using words or ideas from a previous essay that you have written yourself
- Using work or ideas from another student’s essay
- Using sections from different sources and stitching them all together, and presenting them as an original work without reference to these sources
- Using ‘find and replace’ functions in software such as Microsoft Word, to alter a few words from a text that you have copied word-for-word
- Using an incorrect source or fabricating one that doesn’t exist to add credibility to an idea
- Using a reference but not properly representing the ideas of the original work
- Using a very specific structure for a piece of writing that has been used by another author, and just slightly amending the content
- Using a thesaurus to rewrite a passage, but failing to offer a source for the work
- Using another student’s essay without their consent, and passing it off as your own work
- Submitting similar or identical work in different courses, modules, or assignments
As you can see, this is quite an extensive list, and involves much more than simply copying content word-for-word without offering a source, but knowing these will help you avoid plagiarism.
Can you accidentally plagiarise?
Plagiarism can be both intentional and unintentional, or it can be done willingly or accidentally. Regardless of this, any work identified as being a work of plagiarism will be punished according to the regulations laid out by your university. With this said, there are various things that you can do to avoid plagiarism, and this is something that we will look at in more detail.
Things You Can Do To Avoid Plagiarism
So what can you do to avoid plagiarism in your work? Well, this should be a three-step process, which includes diligence:
(1) before writing your work,
(2) during writing your work, and
(3) after your work has been written.
1. Before Writing Your Work
In this first stage, when doing your research and taking notes, you must ensure that any notes are accompanied with the correct references. These notes must also provide an accurate representation of the author’s ideas if you intend to use this in your work.
It might be very easy for you to look back on your notes and convince yourself that these were your ideas if there are no sources accompanying them. If you are not well organised you will unintentionally create a plagiarised piece of work. So, you need to be diligent in this research stage, and make sure that your note taking is done carefully and with the correct references accompanying it.
2. During Writing Your Work
Obviously, when you begin actually writing your work, you need to ensure that your work is correctly cited and referenced, and that all of the ideas that are not referenced are your own.
3. After Your Work has been Written
When you have completed your work, you must carefully check through it and make sure that no citations or references have been left out by accident. If you do feel that you have missed something, then you must go back and try to locate the source of the words or idea.
By the time you print your work ready for submission (or finalise it if it is a digital submission), you must be confident that everything in your work has been correctly cited and referenced. If you are not sure about referencing, then you must refer back to your course handbook and read the particular rules and regulations of your university.
Further Tips to Avoid Plagiarism before Submitting your Work
Using a Plagiarism Checker Software
To further avoid plagiarism, you might also use some dedicated plagiarism software, such as Viper. This will allow you to digitally check the content of your work against all online content, or anything stored within the software databases.
Using a plagiarism checker will allow you to generate a report that shows you the percentage and type of plagiarism present in your work. If such percentages are too high, then you could address these concerns before handing in your piece.
Furthermore, while you may be able to do a basic check of sections of content by using search engines such as Google or Yahoo, this kind of check does not have the same sophistication as dedicated plagiarism platforms do. Plagiarism Checkers’ offer a range of features. For example, for just £3 per 5,000 words, Viper can:
- Checks content against over ten billion sources – including e-books, PDFs, academic papers, and online journal across the World Wide Web – but it also
- Performs checks with lightning speeds,
- Matches direct content – with links to the websites where the plagiarised content originates
- Provides a plagiarism score and offers a detailed report.
Why Invest in a Plagiarism Checker to Avoid Plagiarism?
If someone is serious about their education, then it makes sense to make small investments to avoid plagiarism. If you are already spending £15,000-£50,000 on your university education, then it makes sense to take some insurance out against plagiarism. Moreover, this will also make sure that you will not get in trouble for plagiarism, and risk losing your place at your university.
Universities are now using such plagiarism detection platforms themselves. Make sure to check your work for plagiarism before submitting it and plagiarism checkers can be a great tool in your arsenal for carrying out such checks and help you avoid plagiarism.
Some Examples and Cases
At this point, it might also be useful to provide a few examples of good practice in order to avoid plagiarism. So without further ado, here are some cases to highlight what to do, and what not to do.
Using an Abstract of Journal Article
The following is a passage taken from the abstract of a journal article in a journal called Perspectives on Politics by Kieran Healy. It states that:
“I informally examine how the idea of public sociology has been affected by the rise of social media. New social media platforms disintermediate communication, make people more visible, and encourage public life to be measured. They tend to move the discipline from a situation where some people self-consciously do ‘public sociology’ to one where more sociologists unselfconsciously do sociology in public. I discuss the character of such ‘latently public’ work, the opportunities and difficulties it creates for individuals, and its tendency to be associated with academic fields that believe in what they are doing”.
Abstracts can be very useful when working with a large volume of journal articles. Once you have read a paper, you can use the abstract of the piece as a guide to sum up the research.
If you are not using it as a direct quotation, then you at least need to paraphrase the work.In many ways, paraphrasing work is much more difficult than directly quoting and citing a piece. Therefore, with this particular passage, a good conversion might be:
Healy (2017) looks at how social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, have impacted upon the notion of public sociology. In this study, such platforms are examined to show how social media can make people’s lives more visible, and allow certain aspects of their lives to be measured through such digital communication.
As such, while this information remains true to the original text, there is no notable comparison between the two texts when run through a text comparison platform, and so it is very unlikely to be flagged as plagiarism. In addition, the correct reference should be:
Healy, K. (2017) ‘Public Sociology in the Age of Social Media’, Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 771-780.
Thus, a portion of the abstract from this journal article has been used and paraphrased, so that it looks completely different, while the original idea and content has been maintained.
Using a News Article
This article discusses the police stop and searches in the UK, published by the BBC News, and a quotation is included by the Home Office, which states that:
“This continues the rising trend in arrest rates in recent years, and supports the idea that the police are taking a more targeted approach to the use of stop and search, and are therefore finding a reason for an arrest in a higher proportion of cases.”
Thus, in this case, the BBC News clearly states that it was the Home Office who said this. As such, good practice dictates that in this instance, you must say that:
The Home Office (2018, cited in BBC News, 2018) states that: “This continues the rising trend in arrest rates in recent years, and supports the idea that the police are taking a more targeted approach to the use of stop and search, and are therefore finding reason for an arrest in a higher proportion of cases” (n.p.).
How Should This be Referenced?
Therefore, this is a quotation cited by another source, and it should be referenced as such. This example shows that the BBC News makes reference to the Home Office before this quotation. Thus, it is very important that you understand how to reference academic work as you could be accused of plagiarism. Incidentally, the reference for this source should look something like:
BBC News (2018) ‘Stop and search: How successful is the police tactic?’ BBC News [online], https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43641009, Date accessed 2/2/2019.
Again, the format of the reference will depend upon the particular referencing style requested in your assignment guidelines. Furthermore, you do not need the original source for the Home Office quote in your references, as this is simply a citation taken from another text. However, you should still run your work through dedicated plagiarism detection software such as Viper.
Who’s Responsibility is it?
Nevertheless, it is ultimately your responsibility to check your own work for plagiarism, and so if you do not do everything that you possibly can to guard against this, then you could find yourself in trouble. For many people, plagiarism is not done on purpose, but rather, it is misunderstanding of what is expected of their academic work. However, in this case, ignorance is not bliss, as higher education institutions can now easily detect such oversights in the era of the Digital Age; and just to hammer home this point completely.
For freshers at university, this is possibly particularly difficult to grasp. There is no scope for blaming others or claiming that one is not aware of the rules and regulations of plagiarism.
What Else Can You Do To Prevent Plagiarism?
One more thing that you could do before submitting any work is to get your personal tutor to check over it. This will allow them to identify any anomalies in your referencing, or anything that might be a cause for concern in respect of plagiarism. Thus, by taking this approach, you are not committing plagiarism on purpose, because you are not formally submitting the work as your own, and are simply working on a piece in progress.
Moreover, if your tutor will also be responsible for ultimately marking the work, if you have discussed possible areas of concern in advance of submitting the work, then they are very unlikely to flag anything as being plagiarism – as by doing so, they will be undermining their own advice. As such, this is one final step that you can take in your fight against plagiarism.
In conclusion, in your fight against guarding against plagiarism in your work, you must first educate yourself and learn about the different types of plagiarism.
Moreover, you must also use a three-step process in your fight against plagiarism. This involves taking steps before, during, and after the creation of your work. To add to this, another layer of insurance that you can use is to sign up to a plagiarism checker such as Viper. If you do take such steps, then you can submit your work with a certain degree of peace of mind, knowing that you have done all that you can to reduce the risk of your work being flagged for any instances of plagiarism.