When writing an academic paper, you must reference already-published materials to buttress your analysis. The tricky part is remembering which part is yours and which part isn’t. Sometimes, such a harmless mistake can lead to accidental plagiarism, which often carries the same consequences as intentional plagiarism. These can include academic probation or expulsion. So the real question is how do you prevent writing a text with plagiarism in the first place?
Consult Your Instructor
If you have any uncertainty about what constitutes academic plagiarism, ask your instructor. They can clearly explain what your academic institution counts as plagiarism and how to cite sources properly.
Outline Your Paper and Take Notes
Outlining your paper is a good strategy for preventing plagiarism. It should include topic headings with your own notes and the sources you want to use. When you can plan out which sources you will use for analysis, you avoid accidentally adopting someone else’s evidence and analysis as your own. In your outline, organize a tentative order for your paper with the corresponding sources and a thesis statement to write a more effective, plagiarism-free paper.
When In Doubt, Cite
While it is important to provide your own analysis in a paper, it is important to cite anything that is not completely yours. This will strengthen your paper by showing that you are not a copycat, you utilize a variety of different authors’ ideas in your paper, and you can clearly distinguish your observations from your sources.
Don’t Mix Up Your Sources
When you site a different author by mistake, it can set you up for plagiarism since you are not giving credit to the original author. While writing your paper, double-check to see if you have cited the correct authors with the correct statements.
Paraphrasing is restating another’s idea in your own words. But be warned: Cherry picking words from an original text and then switching them around is plagiarism. Even when you paraphrase, be sure to cite exactly who it is that you are paraphrasing.
All Sources are Not Equal
When you select a printed or online source to use, it is important to check who the author is and if they have any credibility. If you base your text on an erroneous source, you can pay with your grade.