It is important to find the right information and inspiration while writing. The world's most prominent authors and poets have time & again sought inspiration from the works of others. Be it an idea, plot elements, or some information, we draw upon others' words and, in a broader context, the intellectualisms that underly human progress.
In academia, researching and writing are central and frequently require students to gather information from varied sources. And acknowledging the contribution of others is one of the core tenets of the ethics & integrity that encapsulate global academia.
Not giving due credit or acknowledging plagiarism is a severe offense in education. So, how do prevent plagiarism while writing? This article explores in-depth and begins with a simple definition of the subject.
What Is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism means utilizing others' work without giving them due credit. It is akin to copyright infringement and a capital offense in academics everywhere.
The term ‘work’ used above is quite broad and may signify:
Original ideas, strategies, findings, analyses
Art, graphics, computer programs, and other kinds of creative expression
One of the most common methods of countering plagiarism is using quotations and citing sources. Citations are vital even if ideas and content are paraphrased.
The term ‘sources’ can refer to:
Published works like books, articles, journals, research papers, blogs, magazines, newspapers, websites, images, videos, audio recordings, paintings, etc.
Unpublished sources like class lectures or notes, speeches, student papers, handouts, or similar materials
Now, you may be thinking, why it's so important to give credit? Why do we need to be so concerned about plagiarism? The following points will help you understand.
The Pitfalls of Plagiarizing
Plagiarism is equal to cheating. You are cheating yourself, your teachers & instructors, and the world.
Plagiarizing others' works means you are not engaging your mental faculties, not testing your knowledge or capabilities, and not getting feedback tailored to you. In short, you are not learning anything!
Plagiarism is straight-up dishonesty as you are misrepresenting someone else's work as your own.
Plagiarism devalues the original work.
Copyright violations are serious offenses. As a result, you may get expelled from your institution and face major lawsuits that may usher in financial ruin.
Now that you know why you shouldn't plagiarise, how do you avoid it while writing? The following section offers some expert tips in that regard.
Tips and Best Practices To Avoid Plagiarism
Cite Your Sources Diligently & Carefully
Add in-text citations and reference lists as per relevant referencing instructions when alluding to an idea or using content from some source. Consult with your teachers or instructors regarding the details of the referencing requirements.
Typical citations include author name, name of the work, publication date & publisher name, and information about the exact section from which the information has been taken.
If you must insert words directly from the source, use quotation marks in your content around the borrowed text. This denotes that the terms are not your own. Simultaneously, you must also cite the direct quote source to inform readers where the quote came from.
Paraphrasing is rewriting ideas and information into your own words, keeping the meaning intact.
Successful paraphrasing without plagiarizing requires a bit of craftiness. Reword and reformat your writing and avoid including too many similar words or phrases from the source. Keep in mind that your aim is NOT to alter the original text's meaning.
However, CITATIONS are still a must. And, to be on the safe side, make sure to run periodic plagiarism checks on your write-up.
Present Original Ideas & Analyses
While taking inspiration from others is often necessary, your assignments are about YOUR interpretations and ideas. Therefore, any reference must act as supporting evidence for YOUR CLAIMS, ARGUMENTS & ANSWERS.
Deliver unique perspectives, develop original ideas, and find new ways to address points referred to in others' works.
Also, be very wary of self-plagiarism or recycling your work. That’s illegal too!
Use Plagiarism Checkers
You can find quite a few powerful FREE online plagiarism checkers. Sites such as Grammarly, Duplichecker, SmallSEOTools, etc., can scan any content and highlight the plagiarized portions. In addition, most of these tools can scan a certain number of words for free and help avoid unintentional plagiarism.
Research & Analyse Thoroughly
Quality research and analysis take time. Put in time & effort, and engage your mental faculties to craft solid content. You will be able to cite information properly and deliver original data in your write-ups.
Develop Your Own Style
Try to develop your style of writing. Develop a clear & concise narrative to deliver your ideas. This will also help you phrase the words of another author effectively and blend them seamlessly with the rest of the write-up. Add citations and make your write-ups credible, in-depth & well-researched.
Keep Good Quality Notes
Take detailed notes and record all metadata. Not all key points and reference information are sequential to keep easy track of. Discern which info you intend to paraphrase and which you want to quote directly. Collate all references in one place to save time & cut down on effort.
There are numerous note-taking software applications out there on the Web. Choose one that suits you the best and use it throughout the writing process.
Be Aware Of ‘Common Knowledge
Common knowledge refers to information that the average educated person would accept as reliable without looking it up. However, know that what may be common knowledge in a specific academic discipline or peer group may not be so in another.
Generated datasets, statistics obtained from official sources, references to domain research, studies or specific dates, numbers, or facts not generally available are NOT common knowledge. However, widely accepted and publicly available information is considered general knowledge & does not need citations.
However, to be on the safe side, CITE whenever in doubt.
Those were some tips and best practices to counter plagiarism in any academic write-up. And that also wraps up this write-up. Hope it aids all readers in developing well-cited & quality write-ups.
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