Plagiarism: What it Is, and How to Avoid It
May 15, 2018
One of the most common inquiries we get from graduate students is whether we can check for plagiarism; another common type of email is that of a student wanting us to go over the TurnItIn report and “fix” the plagiarism that was found. Addressing these issues is complex, and while we can assist you with some things, it often involves work on the student’s part, since it is, after all, your work. We wrote about the basics of plagiarism here a few years ago, but it’s always good to revisit the issue, especially in light of the resignation of the President of Hobart and William Smith college over the allegations of plagiarism in his dissertation. Plagiarism is a serious allegation, and can hurt your chances of graduating, staying in the program, and even cost you your job.
Can we help with the TurnItIn report? Short answer: yes! We would be more than happy to review the TurnItIn report and provide feedback. We can also help with editing your paper and assisting you with comments from your adviser about plagiarism concerns. While we cannot add citations or rewrite things for you, we can certainly illustrate where citations are necessary, areas that should be rewritten in your own words, and things like that. In these instances, it’s often beneficial to have a phone consultation with your editor after they’ve reviewed your paper, to talk through the report, and go over what constitutes plagiarism, and how you can rewrite and consolidate the material in your own words, as well as how to add your own interpretation and analysis of it. If you’re finding yourself unsure about plagiarism issues, contact us today, and we’ll be happy to see how we can assist you.
What is Plagiarism?
The dictionary defines plagiarism as “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as your own.” This can mean copying verbatim, cutting and pasting, changing one word, or changing the order of words/ideas. It also includes swapping out synonyms with the existing material. Schools consider plagiarism a form of cheating, which could result in dismissal from your program. This is why it’s so important not to do it.
Dissertations, theses, papers, and other academic work serve a multitude of purposes: to show that you understand the material and can synthesize it into an argument, as well as that you know how to cite your sources appropriately, independently analyze the material, and back up your ideas. If you have any doubts about whether you should cite the material, it’s usually best to cite it – although not every sentence should be cited, obviously. Your original thoughts, ideas, argument, and analyses are the main stars of the paper.
Especially if you’re going into academia or a research-heavy field, it’s important to learn the basics of original research and paper writing, since plagiarism can also cost you a job or promotion later on, as well.
How do I Avoid Plagiarism?
You can avoid plagiarism in a variety of ways: cite your sources, paraphrase, use the formatting guidelines correctly, and improve your research skills. It’s important to cite original material or quotations, as well as what material needs to be cited – and how – per your style guide.
Paraphrasing is an important tool. It doesn’t mean changing a word or two, or a phrase, from someone else’s writing. It also doesn’t mean altering existing material with synonyms, or rearranging the sentence. If you do any of these things, that’s still considered plagiarism, as it’s still not your unique thoughts or ideas. Paraphrasing means using existing material while putting the ideas into your own words – and still citing the original sources, because they’re still not your original ideas.
Here are some great resources to help you learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it:
It’s also worth checking to see if your University writing center has a webpage on this, as most schools have a dedicated page outlining what they consider to be plagiarism, tips to avoid it, and additional resources.
If you’re struggling with your TurnItIn report, feedback from your adviser, or simply want coaching on ways to avoid plagiarism and how to improve your writing, contact us today! Our team of editors and coaches have years of experience, and are always happy to work with you.