How To Avoid Accusations of Plagiarism

Plagiarism is essentially stealing of someone’s intellectual property and passing it as your own. It can be of different forms. Not citing a source to buying a paper- plagiarism has many forms. Dishonest work of students is often sniffed out by professors due to disparity in styles and quality. Even your acquaintance or friends’ words are not your own. If you use their quotes, unless they are cited, it is a form of cheating and plagiarism.

Correct Referencing

If you are using someone’s intellectual work, you have to cite the source properly. As you give more credit, your credibility as a writer is benefited and you naturally avoid accusations of plagiarism. For students, the citation style varies from institution to institution. The American Psychological Association, for example, has its own style of citation. The Modern Language Association is another form of citation that includes information of source both in-text and in the references section. Chicago Style Citation is also adopted and favoured by some academics.

For professional writers, like freelancers, article writers and so on, it is customary to cite their sources in the references section.

Plagiarism

Show Who Wrote The Original Work

It is not a crime or an example of dishonesty if you directly quote another person’s work in your article or essay as long as you clearly state the original writer of the work.

Written words: It is necessary to include any word that is not strictly yours in quotation marks and specify who the original writer of those words is. Whether you use summaries or paraphrases or exact quotations, the source material has to be cited.

Verbal quotes: If you are quoting someone’s verbal remarks, you have to include them in quotes as well and write the whole thing like a direct speech.

Even if you buy a paper online, you do not have the rights to use the work as your own. You must cite its author or else you will be in trouble. Teachers use services like turnitin.com to detect whether certain content is copied from a source.

Consistent Quality

This serves as a really important benchmark for professors and editors alike in order to judge whether an author has cheated or not. When you turn in works of a certain standard and suddenly one day, the quality of your work dramatically improves, suspicion naturally arises. Of course, this does not mean any improvement in your work is to be looked down in suspicion. However, no one’s capacity of writing can change overnight. It takes time and your work should rightly reflect so.

Consistent Style

The style of your writing says a lot about you. So, when you switch from writing broken English to eloquent prose, your professors are quite right to suspect plagiarism. Here are some parameters in style through which editors and professors judge the originality of your work:

  • Type of language used- broken, colloquial or more artful, prose-like
  • Use of punctuation– sparse or correct
  • Typesetting style- if you are used to handing in your work in MS Word and suddenly change to LaTex, it will raise suspicion. A lot of academic content online is written in LaTex, which adds to the suspicion

Check Yourself

There are several ways of checking the originality of your work yourself.

  • Ask a friend- A friend can help you get a third person’s perspective on how original your work seems
  • Use software– Some services allow you to check the originality of work, like Copyscape.

Some Examples of Plagiarism

Here are some examples of plagiarism:

  • Borrowing statistical data, graphs, pictures or phrases without citing source
  • Collaborating on an assignment without the editor or professor’s approval
  • Taking just the idea from somewhere and not crediting the source
  • Using data accumulated by someone as your own data in a paper
  • Copying someone’s words directly without using quotation marks
  • Not citing or referencing even when you paraphrase instead of directly using someone’s words

The consequences of plagiarism or even its accusation can be severe. For academics, it can result in a really bad grade if the teacher is lenient; you may even fail a paper if the teacher is not willing to be flexible or you have already been caught cheating before. For professional writers, it destroys their reputation as an author and may even be taken to civil court and ordered to pay damages.