Plagiarism is the act of copying another person’s words and ideas, and passing them off as your own. The theft here is not just of the written text though. It includes but is not limited to borrowing:
- The original thought of another writer
- Unique interpretation of facts or data by the original author
- Writing style, sentence structuring and sequence of reasoning
When a person is compelled to use an expert’s view, a famous personality’s quote or data from a research survey, the honourable way to do so is to give credit to the original creator of the content. Failure to do so is deemed unethical. There is scant tolerance for such intellectual dishonesty in academic circles.
However, the access to quality content on the Internet oftentimes impels scholars to dip into online resources to enrich their own work.
Follow these rules to avoid plagiarism:
- Make it a habit to save the URL of the websites you visit for research
- Practice the fine art of paraphrasing
- Acknowledge all sources in the format prescribed
- Run your text through plagiarism checking tools before submission
- Tracking and Attributing Sources: Very often researchers collect a lot of basic information from the Net, assuming that it is common knowledge and need not be sourced. Wrong! Always track the sites you visit – there is a lot of duplication online and you may just find that your source has pulled out material from another mother document.
It is best to identify original content and differentiate it from subsequent improvements. This will help you attribute sources when you begin to undertake your own writing. Tracking the sites, you visit will obviate the need to retrace your online search when you need to list references.
- Learning to Paraphrase: When the content you need to reproduce is a widely proclaimed finding of another, do not hesitate to use a direct quote or cite the material with the name of the author, para and page from where it is drawn. However, if it is a concept that you can express in your own words, be mindful of the four Rs: Rephrase, Refine, Retain and Refresh.
Rephrase: Rewording the content without changing the meaning will help you remain original.
Refine: Content can be polished by rearranging it in a way that better captures the attention of your audience.
Retain: Certain elements such as dates, names and numbers add authenticity to the information provided and should not be sacrificed.
Revise: A quick tally of the original content with your own version will help to ensure that nothing has been missed out on, so do not forget to do a check.
Many students are proficient in their own subjects but do not understand what paraphrasing is. Students overwhelmed by huge amounts of research also have to contend with stringent university rules against plagiarism. This is behind the rising popularity of professional paraphrasing services.
Paraphrasing services merely augment a student’s efforts and should not be mistaken for “diploma mills” that encourage lazy students. Some sought-after paraphrasing services are:
- The Ultimate Proofreader
- Fast Paper Editing
- Essay Mania
- Grade Miners
- Acknowledgement of Sources: By now, it is clear that failure to acknowledge sources or the original author is a form of plagiarism. However, citing a particular work or author, reproducing a passage word to word within quotations and accrediting original content also helps to:
Boost Authenticity: Acknowledgement proves the sincerity, depth and credibility of research work done. The manner in which a new thesis is built while taking cognizance of existing findings lends credence to your own study.
Promote Discourse: When a detailed bibliography is attached to an academic work, other researchers and experts involved are encouraged to join discussion. This, in turn, provides a broader perspective on the subject.
- Cross-checking for Plagiarism: Make sure you double-check your content with the plagiarism tools available online. For example,
- Plagiarism Checker
- Dupli Checker
Remember, every examiner will sift through your dissertation or thesis for unethical practices. That online paraphrasing tool you used to summarize a particularly challenging passage should not land you in trouble after all.
– Jason Kline
The WriteSmartly Team