What is Plagiarism?

You’ve spent countless hours researching, writing, and revising your paper. You’ve curated multiple sources and carefully crafted your argument – only to get your paper flagged for plagiarism.

Or, maybe it’s finals week, you have a paper due tomorrow and your work schedule changed last minute. To save time, you take a paper you submitted last term, make a few tweaks, and turn it in. Plagiarism strikes again.

But wait! You’re thinking – I wrote it! How can that be plagiarism?! I would never plagiarize! But, what you may not know is that often times students don’t even realize they’re plagiarising. It can happen more easily than you think.

What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is the act of taking someone else’s words or ideas and passing them off as your own. In online learning, this most commonly happens in written assignments and discussions. There are often serious consequences for students who are caught plagiarizing including failure of the assignment or even expulsion from the class or school. But, plagiarism isn’t always intentional. Common examples of plagiarism include:

  • Copying words or ideas from someone else without attribution
  • Providing false or inaccurate citations or source information
  • Paraphrasing sources in a way that too closely represents the original
  • Failing to use quotation marks
  • Using too much from any given source in a single paper even if you properly cite that source
  • Turning in work you wrote but already received credit for in another class

How to Avoid Plagiarism
The first step toward avoiding it is knowing what it looks like. Once you know that, learn when and how to cite your sources.

  • Anytime you use exact words from another author, you must use quotations and you must include a reference to the original work.
  • If you’re using an idea from someone else, even if you’re writing that idea in your own words (paraphrasing) you need to cite the source.
  • Include your own ideas in your paper. Develop your own point of view and use the research you have conducted to support that point of view.
  • Ask your teacher – if you’re not sure how to cite something or if it needs to be cited, ask your professor for help.
  • Use an online plagiarism checker. There are a lot of free resources that will scan your work to identify issues. (Guess what? Your teachers use these too – so don’t think you can pull one over on your professor.)

One of the best tips for avoiding plagiarism is to give yourself enough time on your assignments. Writing is a process – it takes research and revision to do it effectively. When you rush assignments, it can be all too tempting to rely on the ideas of others – even if you don’t do it intentionally.

Written by Guild Education

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