How to Avoid Plagiarizing a Research Paper

Nothing says midterms like long nights in the library and eight-page papers. I remember that gut-wrenching time of the semester. Everyone I knew was chugging coffee in order to stay awake to study for their exams and complete their papers. Though we still have over a month before that dreadful time of the semester, you should be prepared to write that research paper. It’s crucial that you know how to avoid plagiarism before you hand it in, because in the age of Internet research, it’s happening more and more, intentionally or not.
Cite your sources: Cite a source whenever you incorporate ideas into your paper that were not your own ideas or thoughts. There are different ways to format your citations, including APA style, MLA style and Chicago style. Ask your instructor which style is preferred. It’s likely that you will also be asked to use in-text citations, which are generally followed after a paraphrase or a quote, so be familiar with these forms, as well.
Quotations: To avoid plagiarism, be sure to use quotation marks when you excerpt exact wording from a source. Place quotations around important phrases, definitions, passages and arguments that come directly from someone else. Quote sparingly, and if the information you want to quote is lengthy, consider paraphrasing. In a research paper, it’s important to never let a quote stand alone. In your own words, make sure you follow up the quote with a sentence that further explains the importance of that particular information.
Paraphrasing: You don’t always have to quote your sources. Paraphrasing is expressing a particular phrase or sentence and putting it in your own words. Generally, when you paraphrase sentences or phrases, you are summarizing that information. It’s important that your rewritten version is different from the original. Since copyright law prohibits the use of the expression of an idea, it’s important that the information isn’t too similar to the source’s information.
Use your own words: Instructors want to know that you truly understand the topic you are covering. It’s imperative that you incorporate your own thoughts and ideas in your paper. In addition, just quoting and paraphrasing an entire paper is considered plagiarism, so make sure that your paper goes beyond encyclopedias and Internet sources.
Common knowledge: It’s not necessary to cite common knowledge. To decide if something is common knowledge, ask yourself whether you knew the information before you took the course. Chances are, if it’s something you learned in grade school, it is probably considered common knowledge. If you’re still unsure, contact your instructor to get further advice.
Remember not to put off your research paper until the last minute. Most students find themselves plagiarizing when they’re trying to complete an eight-page paper in two hours. In general, professors give you at least a week to complete a lengthy paper, so be sure to use all that time to your advantage.
Via and Purdue Writing Lab
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