Plagiarism Avoidance Techniques: The Ultimate Guide for Students


Plagiarism Avoidance Techniques: You’ve been there before – sitting at your desk staring at a blank word document the night before an essay is due. You know you need to get the assignment done, but have no idea where to start. Plagiarism can sneak up on even the most ethical student when the pressure is on. Don’t stress – this guide has you covered with pro tips to avoid plagiarism and ace that paper. We’ll walk through techniques like proper quoting, paraphrasing, citing sources, using plagiarism checkers, and more. With a game plan to steer clear of accidental copying, you can write with confidence and integrity. Let’s get started!

What Is Plagiarism?


Plagiarism refers to using someone else’s words or ideas without properly crediting them. As a student, it’s critical you understand what constitutes plagiarism so you can avoid it in your own work. The most common types of plagiarism include:

Direct Plagiarism

Copying someone else’s work word-for-word without quotation marks or citation. This includes copying from books, websites, journal articles, and other students’ papers.

Mosaic Plagiarism

Borrowing phrases, sentences, or longer passages from a source and stitching them together without citation to create a new whole. Even though the wording has been rearranged, the ideas and structure still belong to another author.

Paraphrasing Plagiarism

Putting another person’s ideas into your own words but without citation. Changing a few words and phrases does not make the ideas your own. Proper paraphrasing means using your own words and sentence structure to convey ideas, not just rearranging or replacing a few words.

The key to avoiding plagiarism is properly citing any words, ideas, theories, statistics, examples, or other intellectual property that does not belong to you. For direct quotations, use quotation marks and provide the author, date, and page number. For paraphrasing or summarizing someone else’s ideas, cite the original work. It’s always better to overcite than undercite.

When in doubt, cite your source. Accidental plagiarism is still plagiarism, so take the time to understand proper citation styles for your discipline. With practice, avoiding plagiarism can become second nature. The most important thing is maintaining your integrity as a student and contributing to the academic community responsibly.

Types of Plagiarism to Avoid

Avoiding plagiarism is critical for any student. There are a few common types you’ll want to steer clear of in your writing.

Direct Plagiarism

This is copying word-for-word from a source without proper citation. Using someone else’s work verbatim is never okay. Always put quotation marks around any word-for-word text and cite the source.

Mosaic Plagiarism

This involves copying pieces from multiple sources and piecing them together into your work. Even if you paraphrase or make minor word changes, it’s still plagiarism if you don’t cite the sources. Always cite sources for any ideas, examples, statistics, or facts that are not your own.

Paraphrasing without citation

Putting someone else’s ideas or examples into your own words is paraphrasing. While paraphrasing is an important skill, you still must cite the original source. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism, even if you paraphrased well. Get into the habit of citing sources for any information you paraphrase.

Accidental Plagiarism

This can happen when you summarize or paraphrase a source, intending to cite it but then forgetting to include the citation. As students, we have a lot going on and citations can slip through the cracks. Be meticulous about recording sources as you research to avoid accidental plagiarism. Review your work carefully before turning it in to catch any missing citations.

The key to avoiding all types of plagiarism is developing strong research and citation practices. Keep careful records of all sources you consult, cite them accurately in the style required, and always put quotation marks around verbatim text. With diligence, you’ll be well on your way to proper academic integrity.

Proper Research and Citation

To avoid plagiarism in your academic writing, you must conduct thorough research from credible sources and properly cite all ideas that are not your own.

Finding Reliable Sources

Use search engines like Google Scholar to find authoritative sources on your topic. Government, university, and nonprofit websites are usually trustworthy. Consider the credentials and possible biases of the author. Avoid sites that allow anyone to publish content without review. Check that facts in the source can be verified elsewhere.

Keeping Track of Sources

As you research, note the publication information for each source so you can create a complete reference list and in-text citations. The reference list should include the author, title, publication information, and page numbers or URLs for all sources. Format the list according to the citation style recommended for your assignment.

Paraphrasing and Summarizing

When paraphrasing or summarizing information from a source, reproduce the idea in your own words. Change sentence structure and wording, not just a few synonyms. Put quotation marks around any word-for-word quotes and always cite the source. Even when paraphrasing, you must give credit to the original author to avoid plagiarism.

Common Knowledge

You do not need to cite common knowledge or facts that can be found in multiple sources. However, information specific to a particular study or publication must be cited, even if it has become commonly known. When in doubt, it is best to provide a citation. Your instructor can clarify what constitutes common knowledge in your field of study.

Plagiarism Checkers

Use plagiarism detection tools like Turnitin or Grammarly to scan your work for any unoriginal content before turning it in. Address any issues to ensure you have properly cited all sources and rewritten or quoted information in your own words. Plagiarism checkers are not perfect, but they can help identify potential problems and strengthen your academic integrity practices.

Paraphrasing and Summarizing Source Material

Paraphrasing and summarizing source material are two of the most effective ways to avoid plagiarism in your writing. Paraphrasing means putting the information from a source into your own words, while summarizing involves condensing the main ideas from a source into a few sentences.

When paraphrasing, read the original source carefully and understand the full meaning before attempting to put it into your own words. Do not simply rearrange or replace a few words and phrases. Truly grasp the concept and find a new way of expressing it that sounds natural. It may help to take notes as you read or close the source so you can write from memory. Refer back to check for accuracy.

Summarizing requires identifying the most important elements and main themes in a source and condensing them into a shortened coherent form. Focus on the overall meaning, not specific details. A summary should be significantly shorter than the original work. Ask yourself, “What are the key ideas I need to convey?” Then, string together sentences highlighting only the essential information in your own words.

Whether paraphrasing or summarizing, always properly cite the original source. Placing quotation marks around borrowed phrases is not enough. Use an appropriate citation style, like APA or MLA, to indicate where the information came from. This gives proper credit to the original author and avoids plagiarism.

Following these best practices for paraphrasing and summarizing source material will strengthen your writing skills and establish you as an ethical researcher and author. Utilizing these techniques, along with proper citation, allows you to incorporate valuable information from existing sources into your work in an honest, original way.

Mastering the art of paraphrasing and summarizing is well worth the effort for any student. It will serve you well throughout your academic career and beyond. With regular practice, these methods for ethically using and crediting source material will become second nature.

Using Quotation Marks for Direct Quotes

Any time you use a direct quote from a source, you must put it in quotation marks. Quotation marks tell your readers that the words between them are taken directly from another work and not your own. This is important for avoiding plagiarism and properly citing sources.

When you find information from another author that is particularly impactful or compelling, using their direct words can strengthen your writing. However, be very selective about which direct quotes you incorporate and be sure not to overuse them. Your writing should still largely represent your own thoughts and words.

For short quotes (less than 40 words), incorporate the quote directly into your sentence, placing quotation marks around it. For example: As John Doe stated in his seminal work on plagiarism, “Proper citation of sources is the cornerstone of academic integrity.”

For longer quotes (40 words or more), indent the quote on both sides and do not use quotation marks. This style clearly indicates to the reader that the indented section is a direct quote. For example:

John Doe’s research found the following:

Plagiarism has become an increasing problem in the digital age. With massive amounts of information available on the internet, students today face more temptation and opportunity to plagiarize than ever before. This troubling trend threatens the integrity of education and scholarship. Extensive education on proper citation methods and academic integrity is crucial to reversing this trend.

Whether using short or long quotes, you must properly cite the source. The citation should include the author, date, and page number. For example: (Doe, 2020, p. 57). The full citation should then be included in your reference list at the end of the paper.

Using direct quotes strategically, citing them properly, and balancing them with your own words are all best practices for avoiding plagiarism in your academic writing. Following these guidelines helps establish your credibility as an author and maintains the integrity of your work.

Crediting Common Knowledge and Facts


Common knowledge refers to information that is known by most people or facts that can easily be found in multiple sources. While it may not need to be cited, it is still a good practice to double check any information you include in your work.

Check for accuracy

Just because something is considered “common knowledge” doesn’t mean it is 100% accurate. Facts and statistics can change over time, so verify any numbers or claims from a credible source before including them in your writing. For example, you may have heard that “the Earth is round,” but without checking a reputable source, you can’t know the exact shape of the planet or dimensions.

When to cite

As a general rule of thumb, if you found information from a specific source, cite that source. If you’re unsure whether something is common knowledge or not, cite it. It’s better to be safe than sorry. For example, if you read about a scientific discovery or study in an article, cite that article as your source. Don’t assume that information has become common knowledge just because you read about it online or heard it somewhere.

Examples of common knowledge

Some examples of common knowledge that typically do not require citation include:

• The Earth revolves around the sun.

• Water freezes at 0° Celsius or 32° Fahrenheit.

• The capital of the United States is Washington D.C.

• The Earth has one moon.

• Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States.

Changing common knowledge

Over time, facts that were once considered common knowledge can change or be disputed. As new evidence comes to light, long-held beliefs may be proven false. For this reason, you should aim to cite sources for any facts that are central to the main arguments or claims in your writing, even if you believe them to be common knowledge. When in doubt, check—and cite!

Following these best practices for determining common knowledge will ensure you avoid plagiarism and support your ideas with credible evidence. If you do your due diligence to verify facts and cite sources when needed, you’ll establish yourself as an ethical and authoritative writer.

Plagiarism Checkers and Other Detection Tools

Plagiarism checkers are programs designed specifically to detect plagiarism in students’ work. As a student, using these tools is one of the best ways to ensure you haven’t accidentally plagiarized and catch any instances of plagiarism before turning in an assignment.

Plagiarism Checkers

Popular plagiarism checkers like Turnitin and Grammarly allow you to upload your paper and will scan it against billions of web pages and academic databases to check for copied content. These services will highlight any text in your paper that matches word-for-word or closely paraphrases another source, so you know exactly what needs to be cited or rewritten in your own words.

While these plagiarism checkers are helpful tools, they should not be solely relied upon. Even the most advanced software can miss instances of plagiarism or flag content that was properly paraphrased and cited. It is still important that you have a strong understanding of plagiarism and citation guidelines for your particular style guide.

Other Detection Methods

In addition to plagiarism checking software, teachers and professors often use other methods to detect plagiarism like:

•Detecting changes in writing style. An experienced teacher will recognize when a student’s writing style, vocabulary, or grammar suddenly changes, which could indicate plagiarized content.

•Checking sources. Teachers will often spot check sources listed in a paper’s bibliography or works cited page to ensure the information was actually used and cited properly in the essay.

•Searching for key terms and phrases. Teachers can search for distinctive keywords, phrases, statistics, examples, etc. used in a paper to try and locate the original source material. If found, they can then determine if the content was properly cited.

•Requiring rough drafts or outlines. Requiring students to submit outlines, drafts, or other stages of their writing process makes plagiarism much more difficult as the teacher sees the progression of ideas. They can also compare drafts to the final paper to check for any newly introduced but uncited content.

Using plagiarism checkers and being aware of other detection methods can help ensure your hard work and research is not undermined by accidental plagiarism. With vigilance and best practices, you can avoid plagiarism and feel confident in the integrity of your work. Focus on learning proper citation, paraphrasing, and research skills—these will serve you well beyond any single assignment.

Best Practices for Academic Writing and Research


As a student, following best practices for academic writing and research is essential to avoid plagiarism. Here are some key tips to keep in mind:

Do your own work. Don’t copy or borrow passages from books, websites, or other sources without proper citation. This includes getting help from friends or family members. Your instructors want to see your own thoughts and ideas in assignments.

Cite sources correctly. Whenever you use information or ideas that aren’t your own, cite the original source. Follow the citation style recommended by your instructor or institution, such as APA or MLA style. Citing sources, even when paraphrasing or summarizing information, establishes your academic integrity and allows readers to locate the original material.

Take effective notes. When researching sources, take detailed notes that summarize key ideas in your own words. Include publication information for each source so you can cite them properly. Careful note-taking will make it much easier to avoid improper paraphrasing or unintentional copying when writing your assignment.

Plan before writing. Develop an outline that organizes your own thoughts and ideas before incorporating research from other sources. Starting with your own structure and flow will make it easier to distinguish your voice from that of your sources when writing the first draft. You’ll rely less on copying or rearranging chunks of information from source materials.

Review and revise. Carefully review your draft to ensure all ideas and information from other sources are properly integrated into your own sentences and paragraphs and are cited correctly. Make revisions as needed. Double check that there are no duplicate or nearly duplicate passages that could be considered improper paraphrasing. Getting feedback from others can also help identify potential issues.

Following best practices for research and writing is well worth the effort. Not only will you produce higher quality work, you’ll develop essential skills that will benefit you throughout your education and career. With practice, avoiding plagiarism can become second nature.

Plagiarism Avoidance Techniques FAQs

Have you ever had questions about properly avoiding plagiarism in your writing? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions by students:

What exactly constitutes plagiarism? Plagiarism is using someone else’s words, ideas, or information without properly crediting them. This includes copying verbatim, paraphrasing without citation, or presenting someone else’s ideas as your own. Any uncredited use of sources is considered plagiarism.

How can I avoid plagiarizing accidentally? There are a few techniques you can use to steer clear of unintentional plagiarism:

•Keep detailed notes about sources as you research, including page numbers. This makes it much easier to properly cite information later on.

•Paraphrase and summarize information in your own words instead of quoting directly. Put ideas into your own words and sentence structure.

•Double check that all quoted or paraphrased material is properly cited. Follow the citation style recommended by your instructor.

•Ask your instructor or writing center for clarification if you have any questions about citing sources. It’s always better to ask for help than risk plagiarizing accidentally.

•Use plagiarism detection software or websites like Turnitin to scan your work before turning it in. This can help identify any passages that should be cited or reworded.

•Develop good research and writing habits. The more you practice summarizing, paraphrasing, and citing properly, the more second nature it will become.

What are the consequences of plagiarism? Plagiarism is considered a serious offense in academia that can result in a range of disciplinary actions. Consequences may include a failing grade on the assignment, suspension or expulsion from your school or program, damage to your academic reputation, and legal issues if the plagiarized work is published. It’s not worth the risk!

Developing strong research and writing skills, learning proper citation methods, and checking your work with plagiarism detection tools are the best ways for students to avoid plagiarism. If you follow best practices and ask questions when unsure, you’ll be well on your way to academic integrity.


So there you have it, my friend. Avoiding plagiarism comes down to understanding what it is, learning how to properly cite sources, and using tools to check your work. Don’t let accidental plagiarism trip you up. Master paraphrasing, quoting, and citing sources in the required styles. Use plagiarism checkers to scan papers before turning them in. And most importantly, keep your integrity intact. Your reputation and grades depend on submitting original work you can take pride in. You’ve got this!



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