How to avoid plagiarism

How to avoid plagiarism

Being able to create an excellently written paper can be very difficult. Some people even resort to plagiarism just to be able to impress their readers. However, in our world today, plagiarism is an act that is not tolerated in any way.

Even just a small trace of plagiarism can give serious punishments to the offenders. For this reason, you want to avoid committing it. You may use either a plagiarism checker tool or various writing techniques that will help you avoid plagiarism. However, the best solution would be to use both. These techniques are discussed below.

How to avoid plagiarism

Paraphrasing Borrowed Sentences or Paragraphs

You can use a paraphrase to avoid plagiarism. Paraphrasing is the process of rewriting a text using your own words. Thus, to be able to paraphrase well, you should first understand the text that you want to paraphrase. In addition, when you paraphrase a text from someone’s written work, you should not forget to include acknowledgement in the form of citation.

Quoting Exact Statements

Even if paraphrasing is one of the most effective writing techniques that will help you avoid plagiarism, it does not work all the time. There may be texts that would be difficult to rewrite and doing so would ruin the original message that it wants to convey.

In such a case, you may resort to using direct double quotations. All you need to do is to enclose the text that you want to borrow in double quotation marks. In addition, do not forget to include citations.

Citing Any Borrowed Information

One of the most effective writing techniques to help avoid plagiarism is citing or the use of citations. Citations would help you acknowledge the original source of information you have borrowed for your written work. Some of the most common citation style includes the APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard style.

Referencing the Sources of Borrowed Information

In addition, do not forget to include a reference list, bibliography, or literature cited at the end of your paper. This section should contain all of the sources or references that you have used for your paper. For each source, you should include the name of the source, the date when it was published, the name of the publisher, and the location of the publisher.

Make sure to always bear in mind all these techniques that would help you avoid plagiarism. Aside from that, you should also use the plagiarism checker tool. This tool would help you check for duplicate contents on the web. It will output to you the percentage uniqueness of your written work and which parts of it contain exactly similar contents on the web. You can use the tool from its website which is

The internet’s fantastic ability to let you grab content, paste it into another document, make edits and publish it online has made plagiarism a very simple process. Some people plagiarize without even realizing that’s what they’re doing. To avoid plagiarism you first have to understand its definition, the process of paraphrasing, and what it means to appropriately cite sources.


Paraphrasing is to restate a concept with your own words. This is far more than just switching around a word or two; it is a complete restatement of the original content.

Citing means to give acknowledgment, or credit to, the person who actually created the content you’re using.

With these definitions, it is easy to identify plagiarism – it occurs any time someone tries to take credit for someone else’s work, thoughts or content.

Plagiarizing is more than just dishonest; it can have serious consequences for students, including failing grades on papers, failing a class and suspension. For adults, the consequences of plagiarizing material can be even more severe. College students can be kicked out of college for plagiarism, and employees who plagiarize content in their jobs are likely to be fired. And the chances of getting caught for plagiarism is increasing as teachers leverage search tools specifically designed to check content for plagiarized pieces.

Here are common examples of plagiarism:

Turning in someone else's work—art, paper, report, photos, etc.—as your own

Taking content and changing it a bit—like changing some words—without giving credit

Taking someone else’s ideas without giving credit

Taking a quote from a source but failing to put quotation marks around the quote or cite the source

Falsifying the source of a quotation

Copying so many words or ideas from a source that your report or essay is almost entirely the work of someone else without giving that person credit.

you’re researching content for an assignment but fail to copy the URLs of the websites you visited, citing your sources – or remembering that a piece of content is actually a quote that needs to be in quotation marks – can be difficult to do. So start by diligently copying all the information about the source before you leverage any of the content.

Next, decide whether you want to use the content as is – which requires citing your sources – or if you want to paraphrase the content.

How to paraphrase content

Paraphrasing requires that you stay true to the intent of the ideas in the original content but that you use your own words to describe those ideas, concepts or thoughts. Changing a few words, or moving sentences around isn’t paraphrasing – it’s plagiarism. Changing the intent of what the author wrote isn’t paraphrasing, it’s just inaccurate.

Remember: Paraphrasing does not remove the requirement to cite your sources at the end of your paper.

Avoid plagiarizing

The easiest way to avoid plagiarism is by being honest and giving credit where credit is due. If you didn’t come up with the idea, write the quote, take the picture, draw the image or create the graphic, don’t pretend that you did.

Always cite your sources to give the author credit for their work or ideas

Whenever you include a direct quote, you must place it in quotation marks and give the author credit. Even when you cite the source, if you fail to put direct quotes in quotation marks you are plagiarizing because it looks like you’re paraphrasing the source in your own words rather than indicating the words are from a quote.

When paraphrasing, give credit at the point where you paraphrase and again at the end of the paper or essay in your bibliography.

In research papers, cite your sources in parenthetical remarks, footnotes, or endnotes. Give credit at the end of a research paper in the bibliography

For photos, images, charts, diagrams, etc. give credit underneath the content to whoever owns the rights to those works, or to the photographer, illustrator, or whoever created the content.

We live in an age where virtually all learning, thoughts and ideas are built upon the work of others in some way. By citing your sources you show respect for the content creator and their work, and your own original content will be stronger as a result.

Because writing tasks often feel daunting to students, there is the temptation of plagiarizing written work. Written resources have become more easily available on the internet, and students may not have a clear understanding of what constitutes plagiarism in each of their courses (either because of lack of knowledge or because of mismatches relative to their previous experience).  See also  CMU’s academic integrity website  for additional information and resources.

Clearly define plagiarism.

At the beginning of the semester – in the syllabus and verbally – give students a clear definition of what constitutes plagiarism and what is considered appropriate collaboration. Note that these definitions may differ from one faculty member to another and from one course to another, so it is especially important to make our expectations clear to students in each course we teach.

Committing plagiarism.

Your good ideas become better when you test them against others’ ideas. For this course, feel free to discuss your ideas about the assignments with other students. However, using someone else’s words, ideas, or concepts without citing your source is plagiarism. So is presenting part or all of another student’s work as your own. In the world of writing – especially academic writing – this is a serious crime and is treated as such. Anyone who commits plagiarism may receive a failing grade for the entire course and be referred to the appropriate dean’s office for further disciplinary action. [From H. Franklin’s Interpretation and Argument Syllabus, 2008]

Provide examples of proper citation.

Give students examples of how and when they should credit the work of others in their writing. This way, they will have concrete cases to which they can refer when questions arise.

Create original assignments.

The more unusual an assignment (e.g., taking a different perspective on a problem, question, or reading), the less likely students will be able to find something (from the internet or their peers) to submit as their own work. In addition, an assignment that has multiple parts may reduce the likelihood of plagiarism.

Require rough drafts.

Adding milestones to a written assignment where students must submit preliminary drafts of their work discourages them from the prospects of plagiarizing. It also helps them spread a larger writing task over a longer period of time, so students are not as likely to be in the situation where they are sorely tempted to take the easy way out of the assignment.

Suggest that students submit electronic copies of their drafts to

Instructors can use this online resource as an instructional and educational tool as well as a detection aid. Turnitin (pdf) can provide valuable information to students on drafts if we allow them to view their “originality reports” where they see how much of the paper is actually written in their own words, and then revise accordingly Many students, especially first year undergraduates, have very narrow definitions of plagiarism, believing that re-ordering, paraphrasing or inserting a portion of another text into their own is not plagiarism. Turnitin can help to educate students about what is appropriate and what is not.

Require that students submit electronic copies of their papers and (where feasible) copies of the material they used as sources.

With electronic copies of students’ written work, it is easier for instructors to detect plagiarism using one of several software packages. In addition, by assigning students to submit their background research material, they will also be less inclined to skip steps and resort to plagiarism.

Inform students about support services.

Academic Development helps students be more effective in their academic work, but not all students know about this resource. Giving a quick endorsement of this kind of help can really encourage students to take advantage of the support that is available. Also, for non-native speakers of English, the Intercultural Communications Center (ICC) offers writing help.

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How to avoid plagiarism

Plagiarism is stealing; it is the act of passing off another person’s intellectual property as your own and taking credit for another person’s work. Colleges and universities take academic dishonesty very seriously and are very hard on students who commit plagiarism. Some possible consequences include receiving a failing grade for an assignment, failing the entire course, and even expulsion from school.

Understand what constitutes plagiarism.

Plagiarism is theft, plain and simple. When someone creates a digital image, a written work, or gives a speech, they own it. If you use those same words or images and call them your own, you are stealing it.

Learn what does not constitute plagiarism.

Plagiarism isn’t using others people’s work to support your ideas, plagiarism is not giving credit to the original artist. There are some things that are considered common knowledge, like the United States of America is on the North American continent, but if it’s not as common as that, you should cite your sources.

Check out the rules regarding copyright.

Generally speaking, you need to know to:

  • Give credit where credit is due
  • Ask for permission if you use more than 10 percent of something
  • Refer people to an item rather than copying it

Learn how to properly cite references.

There are many citation styles — APA, MLA, MLHA, Chicago Manual of Style, Turabien, etc. Check out which one your college or university, division or school, or your professor, wants you to use. Purchase the manual for it, and read it. The general idea behind all citation styles is giving your readers (your professor) the details they need to look up the source.

If you are writing a paper, collect your resources so you can cite them properly. If you borrowed a book or are writing your paper or doing your project over time, create a digital file of your resources. Make sure to know which information your citation style will ask for and if you use quotes, don’t forget the page numbers.

Learn how to paraphrase.

Ideally your work should be original and you should use reference materials to support your ideas, so you should paraphrase as much as possible. Paraphrasing takes practice, but the basic method is read, think about it, and then restate it in your own words.

Check out or some other plagiarism resource.

These helpful Web sites allow you to submit your paper to be checked for plagiarism for you before you turn it in to your professor. Many colleges and universities provide accounts to plagiarism resources to their students, so check out your school’s policy.

Review, review, review.

Once you have written your work or completed your project, set it aside and then review it to make sure you have cited everything. You should also take this time to glance over your work and check for typos. Common typos to check for are “loose” for “lose”; “it’s” for “its”; “effect” for “affect”; and “you’re” rather than “your.”

Take advantage of your professor’s knowledge.

If your professor offers to read your draft and provide comments, make sure to take advantage of that service. Your professor will note where citation is needed.

Working on a paper and trying to make sure you aren’t cited for plagiarism? Here are a few tips to help you avoid common plagiarism mistakes.

How to avoid plagiarism 


Your first step in avoiding plagiarism is proper citation. Even if you try to give credit to the original source by including it in your works cited page, it will be marked as plagiarism if you don’t do proper intext citations. There’s plenty of resources online to help you with proper citation, but if you’re not sure double check with the Writing Lab or your professor.


This is a simple and vital step to avoid plagiarism. Make sure anything you’re using word for word from a source has quotations around it. If you miss a quotation mark, your paper will be flagged by plagiarism checkers. Double checking is worth not having to email your professor to explain a high plagiarism score.


It’s easy to point out plagiarism when it’s a word for word copy, but paraphrasing without citation can be overlooked by writers. If what you’re writing is a summarization of something you read you need to give credit. Even though it’s your words the ideas and information are not.

Avoid Free Plagiarism Checkers

It’s good that you want to double check your paper for plagiarism, however, free plagiarism checkers could be storing your papers and selling them to other students. Check with your professor to see if a free Turnitin check is available or submit your paper to the Writing Lab to make sure your citations are correct. 

Use the Writing Lab for Help

Southeast’s Writing Lab is a great resource when you’re writing a paper. They can see if your paper stays on topic while answering the prompt, and double check your citations. Turn around time for a submitted paper is 3 days on average.

In a research paper, you have to come up with your own original ideas while at the same time making reference to work that’s already been done by others. But how can you tell where their ideas end and your own begin? What’s the proper way to integrate sources in your paper? If you change some of what an author said, do you still have to cite that author?

Confusion about the answers to these questions often leads to plagiarism. If you have similar questions or are concerned about preventing plagiarism, we recommend using the checklist below. There are also tools like Turnitin Draft Coach that help you ensure original writing and proper citations before handing in your final version.

Planning Your Paper

Consult with Your Instructor

Have questions about plagiarism? If you can’t find the answers on our site or are unsure about something, you should ask your instructor. He or she will most likely be very happy to answer your questions. You can also check out the guidelines for citing sources properly. If you follow them and the rest of the advice on this page, you should have no problems with plagiarism.

Plan Your Paper

Planning your paper well is the first and most important step you can take toward preventing plagiarism. If you know you are going to use other sources of information, you need to plan how you are going to include them in your paper. This means working out a balance between the ideas you have taken from other sources and your own, original ideas. Writing an outline or coming up with a thesis statement in which you clearly formulate an argument about the information you find will help establish the boundaries between your ideas and those of your sources.

Take Effective Notes

One of the best ways to prepare for a research paper is by taking thorough notes from all of your sources so that you have much of the information organized before you begin writing. On the other hand, poor note-taking can lead to many problems– including improper citations and misquotations, both of which are forms of plagiarism! To avoid confusion about your sources, try using different colored fonts, pens, or pencils for each one, and make sure you clearly distinguish your own ideas from those you found elsewhere. Also, get in the habit of marking page numbers, and make sure that you record bibliographic information or web addresses for every source right away– finding them again later when you are trying to finish your paper can be a nightmare!

Writing Your Paper

When in Doubt, Cite Sources

Of course you want to get credit for your own ideas. And, you don’t want your instructor to think that you got all of your information from somewhere else. But if it is unclear whether an idea in your paper really came from you, or whether you got it from somewhere else and just changed it a little, you should always cite your source. Instead of weakening your paper and making it seem like you have fewer original ideas, this will actually strengthen your paper by:

  • showing that you are not just copying other ideas but are processing and adding to them,
  • lending outside support to the ideas that are completely yours, and
  • highlighting the originality of your ideas by making clear distinctions between them and ideas you have gotten elsewhere

Make It Clear Who Said What

Even if you cite sources, ambiguity in your phrasing can often disguise the real source of any given idea, causing inadvertent plagiarism. Make sure when you mix your own ideas with those of your sources that you always clearly distinguish them. If you are discussing the ideas of more than one person, watch out for confusing pronouns. For example, imagine you are talking about Harold Bloom’s discussion of James Joyce’s opinion of Shakespeare, and you write: “He brilliantly portrayed the situation of a writer in society at that time.” Who is the “He” in this sentence? Bloom, Joyce, or Shakespeare? Who is the “writer”: Joyce, Shakespeare, or one of their characters? Always make sure to distinguish who said what, and give credit to the right person.

Know How to Paraphrase

A paraphrase is a restatement in your own words of someone else’s ideas. Changing a few words of the original sentences does NOT make your writing a legitimate paraphrase. You must change both the words and the sentence structure of the original, without changing the content. Also, you should keep in mind that paraphrased passages still require citation because the ideas came from another source, even though you are putting them in your own words.

The purpose of paraphrasing is not to make it seem like you are drawing less directly from other sources or to reduce the number of quotations in your paper. It is a common misconception among students that you need to hide the fact that you rely on other sources. Actually it is advantageous to highlight the fact that other sources support your own ideas. Using quality sources to support your ideas makes them seem stronger and more valid. Good paraphrasing makes the ideas of the original source fit smoothly into your paper, emphasizing the most relevant points and leaving out unrelated information.

Analyze and Evaluate Your Sources

Not all sources on the web are worth citing– in fact, many of them are just plain wrong. So how do you tell the good ones apart? For starters, make sure you know the author(s) of the page, where they got their information, and when they wrote it (getting this information is also an important step in avoiding plagiarism!). Then you should determine how credible you feel the source is: how well they support their ideas, the quality of the writing, the accuracy of the information provided, etc. We recommend using the “Web Page Evaluation Criteria” available through New Mexico State University’s website.

Plagiarism can be a confusing and overwhelming topic and is only one area of academic integrity. To learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it, complete each of the steps below.

Step 1: Understand Plagiarism

Plagiarism is when you use another person’s words or ideas and try to pass them off as your own. However, plagiarism can take many different forms. To learn more about what plagiarism is, and why it’s wrong, view our short video on plagiarism. To learn about each of the types, use the Types of Plagiarism Infographic.

Task: Complete the Types of Plagiarism Practice Activity:

How to avoid plagiarism

Step 2: Properly Quote and Paraphrase

Using outside evidence is important in academic writing, but those sources must be used appropriately. You can include information from outside sources through proper paraphrasing and quoting. To learn about these two approaches, go to our short video on paraphrasing and our Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing page.

Task: Complete the Paraphrasing Practice Activity:

How to avoid plagiarism

S tep 3: Properly Cite Sources

As noted in Step 2, you can paraphrase and quote pieces of evidence to include information from outside sources. But, all of that information must be cited within your paper using in-text citations and a separate references list. To learn about these two requirements, go to our Citing Within Your Paper page and our References List page.

Task: Complete the In-Text Citation Practice Activity:

How to avoid plagiarism

Step 4: Check Your Work for Possible Plagiarism

It’s always a good idea to use a tool to check that you have properly used outside sources in your work. One tool you can use to help you with this is Turnitin.

    is a tool that helps identify potential plagiarism within a submitted assignment. This tool compares students’ work with texts available online, in our university’s internal database, as well as any assignment submitted to Turnitin.
  • You can submit your assignment to Turnitin before you submit it for grading so you can check your own work for possible plagiarism.
  • For help understanding your Turnitin report, review our Understanding a Turnitin Report video.

Step 5: Practice

Task: Complete the Is It Plagiarism? Practice Activity:

How to avoid plagiarism

Copy and Paste, Find and Replace, Sharing Work, Collusion, Self-Plagiarism, Recycling, Purchasing, Remix, Ghost Citation, Plagarism

Still Confused?

Please reach out to your instructor or email the Writing Center for assistance!

An international partnership has been established to better understand plagiarism among graduate students.

Martine Peters, a professor in the department of education sciences at the Université du Québec en Outaouais, still remembers her first case of plagiarism at the graduate level: “It was a rude awakening, because the student told me, ‘You never said we shouldn’t do this.’ And he was right – I assumed that he knew.” That was how she first became interested in different infractions among university students, and plagiarism in particular.

“I’m trying to understand the process and the role that language habits and writing habits play in plagiarism,” she explained. In other words, why do students plagiarize, and how can we provide them with the necessary skills to avoid it? “Students who plagiarize aren’t learning what they need to learn,” Dr. Peters noted.

The researcher first obtained a partnership development grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in 2016; she has just received another major seven-year grant from the same council to establish the Partenariat universitaire sur la prévention du plagiat (PUPP).

Understanding plagiarism

Rather than cataloguing cases of plagiarism, this vast research project seeks to understand the reasons behind plagiarism and the strategies that students use when writing. It also aims to propose teaching methods to provide students with the tools, knowledge and confidence they need to do their own work. After all, students who plagiarize don’t always do it in bad faith. “They forget that it’s not just the words that belong to the original authors, it’s also their ideas,” said Dr. Peters.

The 59 researchers and collaborators involved with PUPP will examine four essential dimensions to reduce plagiarism:

  • the ability to search for and find information;
  • writing skills;
  • knowing how to reference documents; and
  • knowing what plagiarism is and why authors shouldn’t do it

To date, no research project has looked at all four of these dimensions at once. “Over the past 10 years, the writing process has completely changed with the growth of digital tools. But we don’t know what students actually do,” the professor acknowledged.

Analyzing authors’ methods

To do this, the team will equip computers with monitoring software to observe how students work and what actions they take when they are writing a university text, from the moment when they receive the instructions until they submit their work. These processes will be compared to those used by experts in writing this type of text: university professors.

The first four years of the partnership will focus on collecting data from 840 students from 29 universities around the world (Canada, United States, France, England, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Portugal and Turkey). The research includes another unique aspect in that it will collect data in English and French, as a native language and as a second language. “Multiple studies of plagiarism among foreign students show that the strategies used when writing in a second language are different from those used in their first language, and that students are prone to plagiarize when they’re writing in a language they don’t feel comfortable with,” said Dr. Peters. The researchers also suspect that cultural dimensions play a role in the action of plagiarizing. “Not all students have the same educational foundation,” she pointed out.

Preventing rather than punishing

In the second stage of the project, the partnership aims to develop materials that will offer solutions to plagiarism. “We want to prevent rather than punish. By the time the punishment comes, it’s already too late,” said Dr. Peters. Not all professors are properly equipped to prevent plagiarism, not to mention the frequent gap between their expectations and their students’ knowledge. For example, as part of the project financed by the partnership development grant, in which nine Quebec partners have participated, the researchers have discovered that almost all students expected to be taught about the four dimensions listed above at university. But many professors assumed that these skills had already been learned at the CÉGEP or college level.

Because students who plagiarize end up worse off for it, whether or not they are caught, the proposed strategies would equip educators to better prepare their students, and ultimately to prevent plagiarism. “They go to university to learn something. If they learn better, they’ll do better on the job market,” Dr. Peters concluded.