How to Avoid Plagiarism


In school, we’re all taught that plagiarism is bad. We’re told it’s unethical, against the rules, and there are consequences. However, it’s not always clear what we should do to steer clear of it. Fortunately, plagiarism is completely avoidable. We believe that following these simple steps will help keep your paper free of plagiarism:

1. Add citations in your project any time you use information from another source.

If you find a line of text (called a direct quote) that is perfect to add into your assignment, place quotation marks around the information, and, immediately following it, place the last name of the author and the page number in parenthesis.

Here’s an example in MLA formatting:

Margret and Hans were desperate to leave Paris and on “that first day, the Reys pedaled forty-eight kilometers to the town of Etampes” (Borden 50).

If you find information you’d like to include in your project, but you prefer to include it in your own writing style, paraphrase the information. Paraphrasing is the act of restating information in your own words.

Using the same information from the example above, here’s an example of an acceptable paraphrase.

The Reys ended up in Etampes after fleeing Paris. Together on their homemade bicycles, they traveled a total of 48 kilometers (Borden 50).

If you have any in-text citations in your assignment, then you also need to add full citations at the end of your project. In-text citations provide readers with a quick glimpse as to where the information came from. We don’t include more information about the source in the middle of our projects because that would be too much of a distraction. We want readers to focus on our research, not necessarily our sources. The full citations, found at the end of projects, provide readers with more information about the source.

The full citation at the end of the project for the example above would look like this:

Borden, Louise. The Journey That Saved Curious George. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005.

The full citation displays the author’s full name, the title of the book, the publishing company, and the year the book was published. From this information, the reader can better understand the source that was used. In fact, they have enough information to find it in their library or bookstore themselves if they’d like to!

Citations can look different depending on the citation format your teacher wants you to use and the type of source (books, magazines, newspaper articles, and other sources all have different structures). For this post, the citations were created in MLA format. APA format and Chicago format are popular citation formats, too. For help with creating in-text and full citations, use Citation Machine!

2. Keep quotes as is

When including direct quotes in your project, make sure to keep them as they appear in the source. Do not change any of the words. It is okay to remove some words, but show the reader that words were removed by including an ellipses (…) in the place where the removed words were found.

Here’s an example:

“On Wednesday, June 12…the Reys began their flight from the city” (Borden 46).

Make sure to add quotation marks around the quote and include an in-text citation immediately following it. Don’t forget to add the full citation at the end of the project.

3. Use your own words, in your own writing style

Sure, you might have a few direct quotes in your research project, but having too many shows teachers and readers that you simply compiled a bunch of quotes together. You need to show that you understand your research topic and the sources you used by analyzing them in your writing.

Try reading a source, or a portion of it, and then put it to the side. What did you learn from the source? Write down your own takeaways and analysis. If it’s a long source, take brief notes while you’re reading to help you stay on track. This trick is helpful, too, if you feel any desire to replace words in the source for synonyms. Taking the words from a source and replacing them with synonyms is unacceptable. It’s plagiarism!

4. Include correct information about sources

In your citations, make sure you include the correct information about any:

  • Author names
  • Titles
  • Publishing information
  • …and any other information that is required in the citation, based on the style you choose

5. Do not resubmit old papers or assignments as new ones

Re-using a project is a form of self plagiarism. If you’d like to use a project again, ask your teacher or professor for permission.

Need citations? Citation Machine can help you create a works cited in MLA format, an APA citation, or a bibliography in several other citation styles.

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