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    What Is Plagiarism and Strategies to Avoid It

    by Meghan Kowalski on 2023-11-08T08:00:00-05:00 | 0 Comments

    There is hardly a student who does not experience times of angst when they have a writing assignment. It can engender a whirlwind of concern and worry. This stress may be based on concerns about completing the assignment in a way that avoids plagiarism. 

    Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of the words or ideas of others. Plagiarism also occurs when you misrepresent the work of other people as your own.‚Äč Essentially, plagiarism is when you use someone else's ideas, information, writing, or thinking without providing the proper citation or attribution.

    To help develop your ideas, write clearly and confidently, and avoid plagiarism, try these four things.


    Understand the Assignment

    Begin by reviewing the assignment's instructions and rubrics. 

    • What are the goals for the assignment? For example, have you been assigned to demonstrate knowledge of the topic, advocate a particular argument, or summarize critical ideas?
    • What does the rubric say will be evaluated?
    • What is the length, format, and citation style? The most common are ALA, MLA, or Chicago.
    • What are the sources or types of information that you must use?
    • Are there limits to how many sources you can use? (Remember, most of the paper must be your original ideas.)

    If you still have questions, contact your professor as soon as possible.


    Rely on Credible Sources

    After you have a clear grasp of your assignment, you are ready to begin researching the topic and finding credible sources. Credible sources use information properly and indicate where they got their information. Here are some tips to help you find reliable material:

    • Check website domain names. Highly credible sources often have either .edu or .gov extensions. Some .org extensions can also be credible. Be aware, however, that some organizations create websites to mislead readers intentionally. You should scrutinize the website before using it as a source.
    • The overall look of the website should not include spam-like banners, targeted ads, or clickbait content.
    • Scholarly articles should have complete bibliographic references, including titles, publication names, dates, and author names.
    • Be sure to determine whether the author is reputable. You can start this process by using Google or the library's databases.

    Finally, you can always find credible sources in UDC Search or the library's databases such as Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, and ProQuest Multiple Database Search.

    Your can read more tips on how to evaluate resources in our help guide.


    Take Notes

    A crucial step to help you avoid plagiarism is to take notes. Planning and documenting as you work will save a lot of worry. 

    • Keep track of every source that will be included in your assignment.
    • Highlight material as you read so you know what you need to cite later.
    • Create an outline that connects the sources with your outline and includes your own ideas. (You can show the outline to your professor to get feedback before you start writing.)
    • Consider using a citation manager app like Zotero.

    Always make sure that you include more than a mere citation. Your professor expects to see your original ideas rather than just a list of cited sources. Think seriously about what you are writing and align the quotes that support your positions.


    When in Doubt, Cite!

    Plagiarism is something that can be avoided. Sometimes it is difficult to know if you've written enough original material to not need a citation. When in doubt, it is better to cite than be sorry.

    • Tools like Grammarly and Citation Machine have plagiarism checkers that can help find matches between your writing and other sources. They will suggest edits that can be made before submitting your work.
    • Use quotation marks (" ") whenever you directly quote material from others.
    • Introduce sources when you use them in your writing.
    • Cite as your write.
    • Read and review your work to catch any missing attributions or citations.
    • Review your works cited page, bibliography, and reference list to ensure that all citations are correct and complete
    • Double-check everything one last time before submitting your work


    It is possible to avoid plagiarism. As long as you track your work and provide proper citations and attributions, your work will be free of plagiarism.

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