Plagiarism is one of the most serious offenses when it comes to intellectual property. Many students unknowingly commit plagiarism due to the lack of proper training in referencing and citing their sources.
Although many students do not intend to pass on other people’s ideas as their own, they end up doing it because they did not paraphrase correctly, or they completely forgot to provide their sources.
There are many forms of plagiarism including the following:
- When a person copies other people’s work and passed it off as their own
- When a person uses other people’s ideas or studies and publish these without permission or acknowledgement
- When a person paraphrases another person’s published work without mentioning the original author/creator’s name
- When a person quote’s another person without saying exactly where the statement was given (interview, book, press release, etc.)
- When a person “recycles” his or her own work without stating that it is an “updated version” or an “adaptation”
All of the examples above are considered to be grave offenses and outright violations of intellectual property rights. One can face serious legal sanctions, especially if the material was copyrighted. In the academic setting, acts of plagiarism can cause school suspension or even expulsion.
How to avoid plagiarism when writing your academic papers
It is important for students to know how to avoid plagiarism when writing their academic papers. Here are the best practices to adapt to ensure that your research papers, thesis and other school requirements follow the standards when it comes to citing your sources:
- Always take note of the materials that you use – Everything that you used for research must be accounted for. Materials are not limited to academic studies and articles. These also include photographs, videos, interview transcripts, music and other types of sources where you got valuable information. You should take note of the author/creator, the date it was published, the date you retrieved it, and the medium that you used (print, online, DVD, etc.).
- Use quotation marks when using direct quotations – It will help to highlight all of the direct quotations that you have in your paper. Forgetting to put quotation marks for direct quotations is considered plagiarism, especially when the person quoted isn’t mentioned in the same paragraph at all.
- Paraphrase using your own words – When paraphrasing another person’s idea, it is best to use your own words. Your sentence structure should be different from the original author’s style. You will also need to explicitly say in the same paragraph that the idea came from the original author.
- Familiarize yourself with different referencing styles – The most common referencing styles used for academic papers are the standards by the Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), and the Chicago Manual of Style. Most professors will tell you exactly which referencing style you should use for your paper. Knowing the required referencing style before writing your paper will save you time, thereby preventing you from making crucial referencing mistakes.
- Set ample time for review – Set a separate time for reviewing the citations you have in your paper. You should dedicate this time to review every source that you used, to see if you have referenced each of them correctly.
You do not need to cite any references for ideas that are considered as common knowledge. Common knowledge refers to facts that are known to everyone and is generally accepted without having to provide a source. If you are unsure whether the idea that you are using is common knowledge or not, it is best to ask your adviser. If this is not possible, then just provide the proper reference for it, to be safe.
When you finish writing your paper, make sure to check your bibliography or references page to see if all the materials that you used have been accounted for.