Plagiarism doesn’t always have to be intentional. It’s unlikely, but certainly possible if you’re not careful.
Get your wits about you and give credit where it’s due. Here are a few ways you can stay on the right side of things:
- Don’t take another person’s unique idea and use it unless you reference that person’s work.
- Cite the source of facts, statistics, and quotations.
- Don’t copy from elsewhere without properly referencing and attributing, no matter how obscure it is.
- If it’s a close call and you feel a reference may be needed to cover all ground, do put the reference. Don’t second guess yourself and decide against putting a footnote. Citing it means that you’ve done your research and it means you won’t get into unnecessary trouble later down the line.
- Quote and reference in advance. When you copy quotations, photocopy pages, or do anything with another person’s work, make sure to note down the reference, so you can add it easily to an essay later. A major time-waster for many students can be the bibliography and references at the end. Even if you don’t use half the information you’ve gathered, you’ll still save time having noted the proper referencing notes in the first place, rather than working it out at the time. I found this out pretty quickly…A quotation without a reference can be hell!
- Don’t blindly rely on what classmates have to say on a subject. If you take down someone’s opinion on an essay topic, how do you know it’s an original thought? You may find that the idea is a very specific one that’s held by an important academic in the field. From taking a friend’s idea and thinking you’re onto a good thing, you may find difficulty when you’re being asked how you came across this information. Stick to your own ideas and back them up.
It isn’t always as simple as copying someone else’s writing or idea word for word. There are many different ways to get caught in the trap. Here are some more helpful links to help you understand what plagiarism can be: