10 Ways to Eliminate Plagiarism

10 Ways to Eliminate Plagiarism in an Academic Paper for a 100% Unique Assignment

Plagiarism is the theft of another person’s words or ideas by taking credit for them as your own. It is an offense taken very seriously by American universities. The potential consequences for students caught in the act of plagiarism can be severe. They include:

  • A failing grade on an assignment or a course;

  • Suspension (resulting in the necessity to repeat a year or a semester);

  • Negative recommendations from advisors and professors, affecting future employment prospects;

  • Loss of reputation;

  • Expulsion.

While you may think these consequences seem harsh for stealing something abstract like “ideas,” remember that professionals in academia base their entire career on their words and ideas. When others take credit for them, they lose some of the credibility and respect which earn them accolades and promotions.

However, there is a cultural disconnect because, in Eastern societies, ideas are often viewed as a part of the public domain, something that everyone owns and to which everyone contributes together. So, it can be difficult for students from other cultures to become accustomed to this novel approach to the ownership of ideas.

When you add language barriers to the equation, some students find it challenging to incorporate books and articles into their writing in an original way. Most plagiarism is accidental, but this does not make it any less punishable.

If you are confused about how to avoid the full wrath of the “plagiarism police,” here are some guidelines to help you out.

  1. Paraphrase. If you are using an idea that you got from another source, put it in your own words. Read the passage you are paraphrasing several times to be certain that you understand it. Then, close the book or minimize the website and write the idea down without looking. If you use more than two words in a row that are copied directly from the source, you should consider using a direct quote instead.

  2. Cite your source correctly. Use a proper parenthetical citation every time you use ideas from another source. Follow the citation style specifically required by your professor or your institution (APA, MLA, etc.). Forgetting to cite a source or formatting your citation incorrectly may be a simple mistake, but the result is still plagiarism.

Example: This is the proper format of a parenthetical in-text citation in APA format for a website source (Blumberg 2014).

A full citation should appear on your reference page:

Blumberg, Lynne (2014, June 14) What happens to the brain during spiritual experiences? The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/what-happens-to-brains-during-spiritual-experiences/361882/.

  1. Use quotes when necessary. If you need to restate some ideas taken from a particular source word-for-word, you will need to place it within quotation marks. When doing so, be diligent in copying the quote correctly. Changing the words within a quote is disrespectful to the author who created it. If the quote is longer than 40 words, consider paraphrasing it instead. Otherwise, it appears as if you don’t have enough original ideas of your own.

  2. Cite quotes properly. Proper citation of a quote follows a slightly different procedure than paraphrasing does. Again, you must follow the rules diligently or you risk plagiarizing. Use a beginning and an end quotation mark, and follow it with a complete parenthetical in-text citation.

Example: Sheldrake (1992) states that the Beguines “sought to create new ways of giving religious significance to women’s ordinary lives” (p. 149).

  1. Use plagiarism detection software. There are plenty of websites that offer free software to check your papers for plagiarism. Just copy and paste your text and click “check.” These plagiarism detectors are the same ones that your professors are using to easily find plagiarism in academic works submitted by their students, so it is a good safeguard for you. If plagiarism is detected, spend some time reworking the content to more accurately reflect your own ideas instead of someone else’s.

  2. Cite your own previously-submitted works if you use them. This may seem counterintuitive, but even stealing words and ideas from yourself is a serious offense. That’s because the credit needs to be given to the instructor of your previous course who assisted you in developing your ideas. Not to mention, your current instructor needs to know that you have written on this topic before and that you are building on previous knowledge. Use the same procedure that you would for citing any other source.

  3. Consider getting help from an essay writing service. Submitting a purchased paper as your own still counts as plagiarism. Even though you have been granted permission, you are still passing off another person’s words and ideas as your own. However, a writing service can provide assistance by giving you an example to look at or a professional essay writer to guide you through the process.

  4. Add a reference page or a ‘works cited’ page. List all your references on an organized ‘works cited’ page that you hand in along with your paper. It’s helpful to keep all sources listed on notecards as you work to ensure that you don’t forget anything.

  5. Include your own ideas. The nature of academia is to continually build on the ideas of others, but each contributor must do his or her part to add new ideas to the canon. Much of your paper will be summarizing the ideas of others, but make sure that you include your own thoughts and perspective.

  6. Seek help from your professor. If you doubt about your professor’s requirements, or you are having difficulties understanding any of your sources, talk to your instructor. He or she can guide you in his or her expectations and coach you in a deeper understanding of the texts so that you can generate your own ideas from them.

Of course, following these guidelines will mean extra work and diligence on your part. It requires you to read your sources thoroughly and to demonstrate that you fully understand them. It also requires that you carefully document all the details about each source that you use. But the extra effort will pay off when you proudly submit academic work that represents your own original ideas and understandings.