Whether you are the curator of a website or a student writing a research paper, one thing you need to be mindful of is plagiarism. Noted that you have to crawl through hundreds of websites and reference books of potential sources; you simply cannot copy and paste it without referencing or quoting the original source. After all; the words you are plagiarizing are the intellectual property of someone else and you cannot simply present them as your own without giving due credit. The fact is that many people do not know what constitutes plagiarism. So let us take a look at ways to avoid plagiarism or, in other words, to plagiarize successfully.
1. Understand what constitutes plagiarism
Here is a gist of the sins of plagiarism:
- Presenting the work as your own or intentionally borrowing work from a friend or online sources.
- Taking passages from the internet or a book and inserting them in your blog/paper without indicating where you got them from.
- Changing a few words without acknowledging the source
- Using ideas from others, even though you write them in your words, without acknowledging where you got them from.
- Not stating where the sources ideas end and yours begin.
2. Make detailed notes before writing
Start by taking detailed notes from various sources. Take the key points from various websites or books on the topic you are writing about. Spend hours on this if you must; it is an important step to summarize several ideas without plagiarizing. Now you can write your paper or blog based on your notes so you can easily avoid mimicking or plagiarizing others. Here are some ways to draft:
- Make a list of the good ideas
- Look for connections to those ideas
- Use examples, statistics and links
- Add what you know from your experiences.
3. Infuse your personality in your writing
Students- your research paper is the staple of your academic discipline. Instead of just copy and pasting from other places, take a stand and form an opinion on the topic. However, you still need to backup your opinions with references and thoroughly cite those references. In case of website or blog content, make sure you add a distinct personality to the blog. Once you have an opinion about a particular topic, it will be easier for you not plagiarize the facts.
4. Cite your sources
Citing is very important-it shows that you have done your homework and lets you keep your arguments weighty and current. It also helps you strengthen your paper or blog. Your writing can draw the reader in when you cite good references. Talk to your mentor or teacher about how to cite. In case of website content, you can add urls and hyperlinks to cited material. The more sources you use, the better it will be to plagiarize a paper without getting caught. You can use short or long quotations and mark the boundaries of unquoted sources. Introduce the source thoroughly and establish the credibility of the source. Provide needed background or context. Recommend the source and, where needed, provide your own examples to explain the source’s point.
5. Read the draft through and compare it with your sources
Read and reread your draft several times while keeping the sources close at hand. Make sure that you are not misplacing the facts. Also change your style and tone so that it is infused with your personality rather than mimicking one of the sources.
6. Make changes beforehand
It is often more difficult to change a completely copy-pasted or plagiarized essay. Although Plagiarism detectors like Copyscape and Turnitin can be tricked by changing sentence structures completely, you need to do them beforehand. Changing a plagiarized essay is often harder and students have even had to hire writing services or get help from others to change a plagiarized essay. If you are using copy and pasting, highlight the pasted text and use quotation marks. You can use colored fonts or different text size as well.
Cleanup is a crucial part of ways to plagiarize successfully. Check your spellings and your grammar. Watch out for ordinary misspellings. Also cleanup ‘autocorrect errors’ and ‘confused’ words. Make sure you set the spellings or language to US English (or otherwise). If needed, get help regarding comma usage, fused sentences, pronoun agreements, indefinite pronouns etc. Avoid using ambiguous “you”. Correct common errors, dangling modifiers, misplaced modifiers, words like effect and affect etc. Avoid passive voice as far as possible.
8. Close paraphrasing and summary
Often, the hardest thing to do is how to summarize without plagiarizing. This is indeed a skill that takes some mastering. If you have the source in front of you, you may have inadvertently picked up the style, tone and main words. So be conscious when drafting the blog post or paper. As stated before, do not change the active voice to passive as smart tools like Copyscape and Turnitin can still detect them. So try and avoid following the source too closely. Use synonyms and make sure that they make sense in the essay without changing the meaning. Here are some more points on how to summarize without plagiarizing:
- Select the main points as the author presents them.
- Be brief and use your own words throughout the summary
- A good thing to do here is to not keep the source before you- read it several times, place it away and then write your own interpretation of what you have read. Do not change the facts.
- If you plan to use exact words because they are apt, use quotation marks.
- Check what you have written against original text.
Know that your essay/white papers/blogs are going to be read- so be responsible and accountable for what you write. State facts accurately and cite references properly.
Here are some additional references to help you avoid plagiarism.
- Avoid Plagiarism on Wikipedia
- The High School Student’s Guide to Writing a Great Research Paper By Erika Eby
- Keys to Successful Writing: A Handbook for College and Career By Ann Raimes, Maria Jerskey