How Do I Check My Paper for Plagiarism?

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Plagiarism is a serious offense that can result in academic probation or even expulsion. Occasionally, even a good student can plagiarize if she forgets to reference a quotation or relies too heavily on one source. In order to avoid plagiarism, you should always double-check your paper before turning it in. Modern conveniences, such as the Internet, make it easy to find plagiarized material.

1 Diversify your references

Diversify your references. Look at the references that you use for your paper. You should have several and should not use one as the primary source. Be sure that you've taken ideas from each work and given your own twist on the idea.

2 Read through the paper

Read through the paper to check for references and citations. When you take a direct quote from another work, you definitely need to reference that work. You can also use in-text citations for when you're paraphrasing another's idea. This would be a sentence that starts, "According to Mr. Brown..."

3 Use a plagiarism checker

Use a plagiarism checker. You can find services online or through downloadable software that will check your work for plagiarism. These programs divide your text into segments and search for the same phrases online. You'll receive a report that tells you which sections of your paper may have been plagiarized.

4 Review your plagiarism report

Review your plagiarism report. Don't panic if your report shows that you have a high percentage of plagiarism. Currently, the programs aren't sophisticated enough to detect when you've legitimately quoted a source. Compare the report to your paper--if the section is something that you've referenced, you don't need to worry, but if it's bringing up other points of plagiarism, you need to change the paper.

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.