Tips on Avoiding Plagiarism

Avoiding plagiarism requires good writing skills. Although extensive advice on writing skills is beyond the scope of this module, below you will find some writing tips to help you get started on the right track.

  1. Learn the principles of good writing so you have the necessary skills to express your ideas with your own words. Poor writing skills often result in unintentional plagiarism.
  2. Learn how to paraphrase a source with your own words. After you have finished reading something, set it aside, write it in your own words, compare it with what you read earlier in the source document, and refine your writing. Make sure to cite the source document.
  3. Learn how to cite sources properly. Choose a citation style (such as APA, MLA, or Chicago) that is suitable for your discipline and familiarize yourself with it fully. You may also find examples of citation styles in journals specific to your discipline.
  4. Learn what plagiarism is and what it is not. Learn how to detect it. After you have paraphrased a source, identify words or phrases in what you have written that appear to be similar to those in the source. You can highlight such words or phrases in your own writing and decide if they should be within quotes or should be expressed differently with your own words.
  5. Don't assume what you know is "common knowledge" for everyone—it may not be. You may need to cite some things you think are "common knowledge."
  6. Don't misinterpret or manipulate what was intended in a source to suit your needs. This applies not only to text, but also to charts, graphs, images, music, and video.
  7. When using citations gleaned from secondary sources, make sure those citations actually exist and find out what was really conveyed in those cited sources so that you are not reproducing someone else's misinterpretation.
  8. Obtain permission from authors when using large portions of their text and give them due credit in your writing.
  9. Make use of the help available from the Writing Center at the university, online resources, and, of course, your course instructor.
  10. When in doubt, put the text within quotes and include citations.

Along with this section's discussion of the types of plagiarism and tips on avoiding plagiarism, check out a number of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).