What Is Plagiarism and How to Avoid It in Your Essay?

What Is Plagiarism and How to Avoid It in Your Essay?
Many students are confused by plagiarism and don't really understand what it means. It is recommended that when writing any piece you are fully aware of the pitfalls of plagiarism and how to avoid it. If you do not understand and therefore, do not avoid plagiarism, you may lose marks or face serious disciplinary action.
So what is plagiarism? The University of Dundee (2005) defines it as 'the unacknowledged use of another's work as if it were one's own'. In this day and age with many technological advances such as photocopiers, scanners and electronic file exchange, it is much easier to commit plagiarism without really knowing it. It is so easy to copy others material and to 'cut and paste' which in one sense is helpful, but unless you acknowledge intellectual property appropriately, you will end up in trouble.

It should always be assumed that a student would not deliberately set out to plagiarise material but it is possible that unintentional plagiarism can occur. There are a couple of things to bear in mind to avoid plagiarism and these are listed below.

• It is acceptable to use another person's work as long as you acknowledge the source

• 'Use' of another person's work does not simply mean copying it 'word for word', it also means 'in substance', so a paraphrase of the notions involved is not acceptable unless the source is acknowledged

• The true definition of plagiarism means using ideas, writing or inventions that another person's 'work' not just words so using these should be avoided

It is easy to see from these points how unintentional plagiarism could occur. However, it is also easy to see how you can avoid plagiarism - quote the source.

There are some other things you can do to avoid plagiarism and these are listed below.

• Keep notes as you are writing your work and make a note of your sources. This way you can avoid accidental plagiarism by not acknowledging the source correctly

• Try not to copy material electronically unless you quote the source

• Try to avoid overuse of direct quotations as plagiarism can occur if your assignment is made up mainly of quotations

• Avoid paraphrasing the work of another person if it is too similar to the original work. It is not acceptable to merely substitute a few words here and there or just rearrange sentences. Paraphrasing when used correctly can demonstrate your ability to think critically and show that you understand the ideas in the original text

• Always quote your source. If you do use direct quotations, then use speech marks or put them italics and always acknowledge the source

There are many pitfalls associated with plagiarism and it is important to find the balance between using someone else's work to support your writing and avoiding overusing that work or using it inappropriately. However, if you follow the points outlined above, you should find that your writing conforms to the rules of plagiarism and gets you those all important grades!

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