The most efficient way to avoid plagiarism is first to find out how and why plagiarism is occurring, because only when you understand the cause, can you deal with the effect.
So, to avoid university plagiarism, or plagiarism anywhere, take a careful look back over a recent piece of your work and compare it with your notes.
Looking at both simultaneously, ask yourself the following questions - your honest responses will help you to avoid plagiarism:
- Is there a clear indication in your notes as to their source?
- Have you clearly punctuated quotations?
- Are you clear about which ideas are yours and which are another's?
- Have you paraphrased your notes?
- Have you overused quotations?
- Did you think that the mode of expression in a piece of writing was better than yours and copy it?
- Were you cutting corners and using your own previous work or another person's work to save time?
Any combination or single instance of these could be a reason why you might have plagiarised either accidentally or deliberately and by recognising it you are well on the way to avoiding plagiarism in the future.
One of the most effective ways of beginning to avoid school, college or university plagiarism is to be more careful when taking notes. It is so easy to be careless with note-taking, especially when you are in a rush or when you are embarked on a long piece of work such as a thesis or dissertation where originality is essential.
These tips on avoiding school, college or university plagiarism should help:
- You can avoid plagiarism by always listing the source in the correct manner when you take down a note.
- You can avoid plagiarism by using the opportunity of constant correct notation to familiarise yourself with the referencing style required by your school, college or university.
- You can avoid plagiarism by reading back over your notes at the end of each research session to ensure that you have noted the source.
- You can avoid plagiarism by using a referencing system like colour-coding to show at a glance which is your work and which is quotation.
- You can avoid plagiarism by being careful with punctuation.
Most tutors will tell you that they would rather have your original thoughts than even the most eloquently expressed sentences of another so don't be tempted to plagiarise because you think a thought is expressed better in a source: plagiarism is never preferable to originality.
Try to approach research in an analytical fashion, so that you are constantly asking where your ideas fit with another's: do they challenge it or agree with it? By adopting this method you reduce the risk of plagiarism because you are contrasting your ideas with those found in your research and it is therefore easier to avoid plagiarising because there is always separation between sources and interpretation and you also improve the overall cohesion of your work.
Reference your work properly
Another key step to avoiding plagiarism is to get your referencing right. Make sure you:
- Always reference the actual source where you find a quotation
- Make it clear which words are your own, and which are someone else’s
- Reference ideas, even if you haven’t directly quoted from the source
- Don’t depend too heavily on other people’s words/ideas. Even if you give credit to them, to be original you also need to give your own words/ideas.
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