Plagiarism is a serious offense that can land you in academic -- and even legal -- hot water. Many classes automatically fail students for plagiarizing a paper, and some schools place students on academic probation or even expel them when they plagiarize. In serious cases of plagiarism, you could run afoul of copyright laws, particularly if you publish plagiarized content on the Web or in a print publication. Taking a few minutes to check your work for plagiarism can save you the headache of an academic nightmare.
You might think that, if you're not deliberately plagiarizing, you're in the clear. Even if you're an excellent writer who only uses your own ideas, you could inadvertently plagiarize someone else's work. Perhaps material from a book you've recently read is stuck in your head or maybe your words are too similar to someone else's. You could even plagiarize yourself if you have a blog or post content on the Web. Overt plagiarism -- the cutting and pasting of someone else's content into your paper -- is also a possibility. If you paste a quotation into your paper for your own reference and then forget to remove it, you've committed plagiarism. Double-checking your work can help you avoid this.
Free plagiarism checkers provide a basic check of your work to ensure that you haven't directly copied material. These checkers primarily compare your work to Web content and to other students' papers, as well as to online paid paper-writing sites. Try Search Engine Reports' Plagiarism Checker, which allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the checker, cut and paste content and upload documents. The Pensters also offers a limited free plagiarism checker; you can check up to five papers per month. Dustball's plagiarism checker compares your work primarily to Web content and allows you to cut and paste large blocks of text. Try Article Checker, which allows you to cut and paste your paper into the checker as well as paste a URL of your work for checking.
Paid checkers typically offer more features than free websites. For example, Copyscape's plagiarism checker compares your work to books, Web content and periodicals, and Write Check offers feedback on your paper. Dustball offers a paid plagiarism checker, which alerts you to overt plagiarism, similar wording and non-unique sections of your paper. Particularly if you're writing many complex academic papers, a paid checker could be worth the investment because your paper will be compared to a wider variety of sources. Plagiarism doesn't just occur when you copy something verbatim; it can also be the result of lifting too much information or too many ideas from another source.
Cite every fact or statistic you use, and always clearly mark quotations. Use the citation style mandated by your professor or by the type of writing you're doing. If you're writing a psychology paper, you'll probably use APA style, but English papers often use MLA, and you must add in-text citations as well as a references page according to the style guide your type of paper requires. If you write while reading sources online or in a book, you're at a higher risk of plagiarizing someone else's work. Instead, do your research and take notes -- then close your research sources and begin writing.
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