5 Tips That Will Help You Avoid Academic Plagiarism

When writing academic papers, there are several things every writer must keep in mind. Two of the most important are to support your ideas and opinions with sources and to avoid taking credit for others work. Following the first can sometimes lead, inadvertently, to students not following the second. Here are some tips that will help you avoid academic plagiarism.

  1. Cite sources—in your notes.
  2. This is perhaps the most important tip because it helps you avoid a very common problem. Often when researching, students jot down great ideas as they come across them. They also, of course, jot down their own ideas. When writing a short assignment, it’s not problematic. However, when you’re writing a longer paper, the line between one’s own idea and one you found while reading another source can get surprisingly blurry much more quickly than you might imagine. So, when taking notes, cite the source, even it’s just a parenthetical citation of the author’s last name. That way, when you review your notes to incorporate new ideas, you’ll be able to find the source for each of the points you’ve jotted down.

  3. Clearly organize your paper.
  4. Sometimes students have every intention of citing their sources, but the poor organization of their writing makes things ambiguous. To avoid ambiguity in citations, have citations in mind when organizing your paper. When outlining an idea, insert your own opinions first, then clearly back each up with citations from different sources. Thoroughly cover each source before moving on to the next. This will help keep your citations easy to match with the ideas they refer to.

  5. Cite as you write—your rough draft.
  6. Another issue new students sometimes run into is forgetting to cite sources because they write their rough draft without them. They decide that it’ll be easy to go back once the rough draft is complete and insert sources. This has a certain logic to it, because of course, there will be changes in citations as they polish and edit their draft. However, that small extra bit of work is well worth it to avoid missing a citation and being accused of plagiarism.

  7. Keep an ongoing works cited page.
  8. Again, many students feel that it’s a waste of time to cite everything on the works cited page as they research, because they may not use all of the sources they’ve found. However, it’s very easy to omit a source by accident if you try and go back and find everything after the fact. It’s much easier (and saves you formatting time in the future) if you record citations for each source throughout the process.

  9. Focus on drawing connections and conclusions.
  10. Finally, many students are tempted to take credit for others ideas. Having “new” ideas in many academic fields is rare—what you should be proud of want to take credit for is drawing new connections between ideas.