Be Creator, Not Imitator: How to Avoid Plagiarism in Your Works

How to write an academic paper and avoid plagiarism? It’s all about giving credit where credit’s due.

With easy access to thousands of sources, thoughts and theories, original thinking is more valuable than ever. It’s also the only way to succeed. Offering your perspective on what’s already out there is what makes you unique. Sure, it sounds good, but how to write an academic paper and not plagiarize at all? We feel your pain – it’s hard to produce something original when it seems like literally everything has already been discovered, researched and described. Don’t worry, with our help, you’ll find out how to write an essay or paper while avoiding plagiarism.

Ideally, any written academic assignment should be based on thorough research, source analysis and your own expertise. For students, referring to someone else’s findings is often a way to cut corners. There’s a thin line between using one’s research to ground your opinion or draw conclusions and unintentionally plagiarizing someone else’s work. It’s critical to understand what plagiarism is, especially unintentional, and how to avoid it when crafting your works.

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Avoiding plagiarism is not only about creating original content but also about giving credit where credit is due. Most cases of unintentional plagiarism have their roots in an improper citation or use of references. We won’t talk about situations when plagiarism is intentional because a) all of us know it’s wrong, and b) academic institutions use AI-based plagiarism checkers, which reveal all types of plagiarism and cheating, even advanced ones. Instead, let’s focus on how to write an original academic paper with accurately formatted citations.

Citation Rules: Tricky But Manageable
The first rule, check which formatting style guide you should follow in your paper or essay. Whether it’s MLA, APA or Harvard format, stick to one style and remain consistent throughout your entire essay.

Second, remember that statements, statistics and research data must be backed up by corresponding references. Also, if you use an in-text citation, be sure to include it in the Works Cited list at the end of your paper and vice versa.

However, don’t go overboard with citing: if a paragraph refers to one source several times, wait until it ends and then add the reference.

Now, the most essential part.

What Should Be Cited to Avoid Plagiarism?

When writing an essay, every time you summarize, refer to or quote any words or ideas of other authors, use in-text citation. This concerns not only printed copies and websites but also social media, video, images, etc. Plagiarism is not about copying only but also about using another author’s ideas without acknowledging the source. And plagiarism checker will show a positive result if you fail to cite the resource or do it incorrectly.
Be sure to include the author, the date of the article and its title, and the website name. Depending on the type of source you’re referencing, you may also be required to add an issue date, the page number, the time of posting or other information. For instance, if you quote a blog post, the following pattern is appropriate:

The author’s nickname [real name]. “Posting Title.” Name of the website. Version number. Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher). The medium of publication. The date of access.

For more details, carefully study your institution’s formatting style guide and follow it explicitly. You can also use this handy cheat sheet.

If you want to convey the author’s idea in your own words, read the source several times until you grasp the essence, and then put it down as you understand it. Imagine you must explain what you’ve just read to a friend. One piece of advice: do not keep the source in front of your eyes when paraphrasing. Otherwise, you might unintentionally copy the phrases from the text word for word. By the way, the following is not considered plagiarism and doesn’t have to be cited:

● historical overviews from various sources
● your own findings – that’s what your academic paper is about, right?
● things that are considered common knowledge

While it’s up to you how to write your academic paper, these standard rules of crediting should be followed. If you are unsure whether you took everything into account, use a plagiarism checker for students – it will show you where you tripped, and you’ll have enough time to correct any slips.