How to Avoid Plagiarism

The best way to avoid plagiarism is to become a good writer! This requires a lot of hard work, and it takes time. So be sure to allow enough time to write your paper. Do not wait until the last minute!

On the following pages, you will see a series of specific suggestions on how to avoid plagiarism, including proper citation, paraphrasing, and summarizing.

Watch the video below to learn about ways you can avoid plagiarism in your writing.

Video Transcript
Telephone conversation between a student and a professor.

Professor: Hello?

Student: Hello. Dr. Wicks?

Professor: Yes.

Student: Hi. This is Natalie Sanchez from your English 101 class.

Professor: Yes. How can I help you?

Student: Well, I was just informed that the paper I submitted to you on Evolution was not original, and that I actually received an F on the paper?

Professor: That’s right. Your Turnitin report showed a 41 percent match with internet sources.

Student: What does that mean?

Professor: Well, that means that almost half of your paper has material that exactly matches a source in Wikipedia. In other words, it appears that you have copied information from Wikipedia into your paper. You cannot use other people’s words unless you give those people credit.

Student: So, should I have quoted the web site?

Professor: Yes, that’s one possible solution. But no more than 10 percent of your paper should be quoted material. If you do want to take the exact words of someone else, then you should put quotation marks around those words and then cite the words using a citation style approved by your professor. My course requires that you use the MLA style of citation. Information used from the web must be cited, just as you would cite information from a professional journal, or a magazine like Nature. There is a correct way to cite a website, so make sure you look up this information. Any library has some very good information on the different styles of citation, as well as some writing handbooks in the reference section.

Student: I see. So, even websites must be quoted.

Professor: Yes. Always quote websites you use for research. Perhaps what you really need to do is learn how to paraphrase and summarize your material.

Student: How do you mean?

Professor: A paper should represent your point of view. I don’t want to read a paper full of quotes from other people. What matters to me is what you have to say. After all, you are the one taking my course. Rather than simply quote a source, learn how to put that author’s ideas in your own words.

Student: Does that mean I don’t need to cite the author?

Professor: You always cite your source. For example, according to Gerald Graff, teaching the controversies is the best way to engage students in debate. I would still have to quote Gerald Graff ’s book, but I have not directly quoted him and so my writing will appear nice and smooth. Paraphrasing and summarizing are two techniques I’d like you to work on before handing in your next paper.

Student: What do you mean by paraphrasing ?

Professor: When you paraphrase a source, you put the source’s material in your own words.

Student: And summarize?

Professor: Yes. Summarizing requires you to balance the source material with your own ideas. Think of a book review, which must summarize the plot of a very long novel in only a paragraph or so. A summary is a broader overview of your source.

Student: OK. Well, what about this paper? Is there any way I can improve the grade?

Professor: This is the first time your work has been reported unoriginal. I want you to have the opportunity to rewrite this paper, with proper citation and return it to me next Friday. So, if you do a good job, I will change your grade. Make sure to use the library to find out how to cite websites. If you do repeat this violation of academic honesty, you will be reported to the dean and disciplinary action will be taken. Plagiarism is a very serious violation of academic honesty, and you risk dismissal from the college. So, please, be more careful when writing your papers.

Student: Thank you so much Dr. Wicks. You ’ll have my revised paper next Tuesday.

Professor: OK. Goodbye.

Student: Goodbye.

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