How to Avoid Plagiarism

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Plagiarism is a serious offense and can result in expulsion from school. At the very least, it will hurt your grade on any writing assignment. Plagiarism is the intentional or unintentional use of another's persons thoughts or ideas, representing them as your own. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to accurately cite the original speaker or author. Follow your teacher's instructions for citing references, typically according to guidelines established by the American Psychological Association or the Modern Language Association.

1 Take Precise Notes

Make detailed comments in your notes, so you can later recall where you got your information or who issued specific quotes. Place oversize, boldface quotation marks around someone's words or write the letter "Q" next to their statements. Write the letter "S" next to notes that came from a specific source or write "ME" for "my evaluations" next to your own comments, recommends the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Include important information, such as the title, author, page number or website URL in your notes, so you can quickly refer back to them when you cite the information.

2 Cite Ideas That Aren't Common Knowledge

Cite any idea, theory, opinion, conclusion, evaluation or analysis that isn't common knowledge. Acknowledge an author's specific instructions, organizational methods or steps in a process. Use quotation marks and credit the source anytime you use a reference's exact words or quote someone's views or opinions. Follow APA or MLA guidelines for quoting and citing sources, including information you provide in your bibliography or works cited page.

3 Paraphrase Accurately

Paraphrase information in your own words to avoid plagiarism. Always tell readers where you got your information if the facts aren't common knowledge. For example, speculative statements, statistics, opinions, quotes, figures and claims require in-text attribution. Universal information, such as the symptoms of a cold, don't require attribution. Make sure your paraphrased statements closely match the main points and primary information in the original quote or text. Use your own choice of words, vocabulary and interpretation when you paraphrase.

4 Never Purchase a Paper or Hire a Writer

Don't submit any purchased academic research papers, English essays or academic reports or call them your own. Never allow or ask another person to write a paper for you, and don't submit another person's work, even if it's unpublished. These types of offenses qualify as plagiarism and cheating.

5 Follow Important Guidelines

Avoid cutting and pasting excerpts from online documents and placing them in your paper or essay. Keep your personal writing separate from your sources, so you don't forget that you copied a text. Don't read a classmate's paper to get ideas for yours. There's a risk that you'll accidentally incorporate her ideas into your essay. Always add in-text citations as you're writing your paper and don't put them off until the end. You might forget where you got the information or neglect to state that the material came from an expert or reference material.

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.