Every university has its own list of requirements for students who write academic essays. One of the most obligatory and punishable, in case of failure to follow, is plagiarism free paper. It means that student is bound to deliver a work completely written by him/herself and with proper referencing to all used sources.
Definition of Plagiarism
Plagiarism is the uncredited use of somebody else's thoughts and ideas. When it is detected in an academic essay, it can easily lead to a serious subtraction of points from total mark or even exclusion from college. Consequently, every self-respecting student is to consider following methods of avoiding plagiarism.
Tips to Avoid Plagiarism
First and the most proved method is to cite every idea, every sentence, or word combination that was borrowed from a book, article, newspaper, web-page, or official state document. Just think about the situation where your ideas are taken without even slight mentioning of your surname. In a scientific field, it is simply called "stealing" and at once is considered as plagiarism. When you are citing, remember about the format. Sometimes, instead of simple in-text citations, the automatic footnotes will be required (Chicago and Turabian style).
Paraphrasing and Quoting
You can insert hundreds of in-text citations, however, without paraphrasing the ideas, your essay will cost nothing and still will contain plagiarized sentences. Paraphrasing process consists of such stages: Reading appropriate source, understanding what the author would like to transmit through his/her work, excerption of the paragraphs and sentences which are applicable for your paper, writing in different words the same idea. When you feel that exactly one or another sentence is better to left how it is, do not miss quotation marks. Quotes should be no longer than 40 words. Citing quotes includes indication of a page number of source or a paragraph when the text is taken from web-page.
N.B. It is rather advisable to start a paraphrased sentence with "According to...," "Author argues...," "Scientist is confident that...", etc.
One of the primary means of avoiding plagiarism in the essay is inclusion of Reference page with Reference list, which has to be properly formatted regarding required format. In addition, all references must have entries in the text. Moreover, today MC Word allows to create automatic reference list that dramatically simplifies the task for you and a professor to check whether each and every source is cited in the text, how it is cited, and what exactly is cited (because sometimes students try to cheat, inserting in-text citations randomly through the text, being under the illusion that professor would not verify the provided information and mentioned source).
Specific Situations to Cite:
It was noted already the general understanding of plagiarism. But there are some situations when it is compulsive to identify the author and source, but a student just fails to do it due to lack of knowledge of such intricated cases:
- Media - all thoughts and dialogs in TV and radio programs, newspapers and magazines, songs and movies, computer games or programs, and advertisements;
- Data obtained from face-to-face interview (via telephone or e-mail/letter/diary);
- In case the whole phrase without changes are copied into your essay;
- Any pictures, diagrams, illustrations, graphs, and charts (if not they are compiled by you, e.g. in research paper).
Space for You
Without doubt, you cannot and do not have to cite each and every word. First of all, it would already look out strange. Secondly, the structure and goal of almost every essay do not imply such approach. The usage of additional literature and any other means is supposed to boost student's academic awareness and weight of his/her work in a scientific field. Thus, personal thoughts cannot be regarded as plagiarism. Therefore, it is a "must" in the academic paper:
- While writing Personal or Admission statement to express your own ideas, argue, and make conclusion basing on personal feelings, experience, or thoughts;
- In a research paper, in results section to provide not only data obtained through experiences or lab researches, but to be able to describe this statistical information in a scientific manner, show high level of understanding of the main purpose of research, and be able to compare what was expected with final results;
- When the student inserts his/her own materials such as photographs, audio, video tapes, or pieces of art;
- When the information presented in the paper can be regarded as "common knowledge:"
- historical events (e.g., WWII ended in 1945);
- geographical or physical facts (Earth rotates around the Sun);
- myths or legends (Labors of Heracles), etc.
- When a student mentions "generally-accepted fact." It is the "fact" which is accepted by society and do not need peculiar support of referencing.
To conclude, it is up to you how to write your paper, on your own or with the help of someone else's thoughts and ideas. Avoiding plagiarism is no longer issue for you when you clearly understand the process of writing, what is expected from you, and for what you can get punishment in a university.