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5 minute read
6 Jun 2023

What is Plagiarism? | Top 10 Tips on How to Avoid Plagiarism

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Martin Luther King Jr.
 (an American civil rights activist), Rene Diekstra (a Dutch psychologist), Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (a German politician) – what do these people have in common?

All 3 have been accused of committing plagiarism. Plagiarism is a form of fraud; a theft of intellectual property and an act of dishonesty in general. Unfortunately, even the brightest minds in our society are sometimes tempted to steal somebody else’s ideas.

Plagiarizing is not just unethical, but also prosecutable in various ways. The above mentioned Guttenberg is a great example of how stealing intellectual property can ruin a successful career. Not only Guttenberg has resigned from his role in the German government and his doctorate degree was declared invalid, but his hard-earned reputation was crushed.

People have a tendency of remembering bad events better than the good ones – no matter how great Guttenberg was at politics, he will be remembered as a cheater.

What are the 4 types of plagiarism?

Direct Plagiarism

Direct Plagiarism occurs when, for instance, a student copies a section of someone else’s work, without acknowledging that an external source has been used.


Self-plagiarism instead occurs when a student submits his/her own previous work, or a mix of previous works, without asking permission to the professors that are involved.

Mosaic Plagiarism

Mosaic plagiarism occurs when a student borrows phrases from a source without using quotation marks or finds synonyms for the author’s language while keeping to the same general language structure and meaning as found in the original.

Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism occurs when a person neglects to cite their sources, or misquotes their sources, or unintentionally paraphrases a source by using similar words, groups of words, and/or sentence structure without attribution. It can happen particularly when the person does not know how to cite his/her sources properly.

Why is plagiarizing a problem?

– Legal prosecution. Plagiarism violates the intellectual property rights law and may require financial compensation. The person who plagiarized will have to pay an approximate amount, that the author could have potentially earned if it wasn’t for plagiarism.

– Lack of fairness. No one would want his or her work to be stolen. And as it happened many times in academia, some individuals do not get the credit and recognition that they genuinely deserve.

– Violation of academic standards. Besides the fact that your degree can be taken away if you take part in an intentional plagiarism attempt – your future career as a scholar is either harmed or finished.

– Violation of educational standards. The laws on this matter are only becoming tougher and tougher. Even if it’s not a thesis but a regular research paper, submitted by a student. Even then, if plagiarism is found, you may not only fail the course but, in extreme cases, you can also get expelled from your university.

– Public shame. This is a “soft” side of the problem. If you ever achieve success unfairly, the public will immediately forget all of your past accomplishments, but they will surely remember your mistakes.

How to Prevent it

In our day and age, advanced software can detect plagiarism quite easily. Even if there is no word-by-word copying, the algorithm may still detect plagiarism based on paraphrasing.

Luckily, if you pay attention and proofread your documents, preventing plagiarism becomes quite easy.

Our Top 10 Tips on How to Avoid Plagiarism:

1. Cite all sources that you use, including web pages. Not only academic journals and books, that you use have to be acknowledged, but media articles or blogs as well.

2. Don’t rush. Most of the time, students forget to cite a source, because they are in a rush. Take your time and validate every source that you use.

3. Learn the guidelines of your citation method. There are many citation styles, such as APA, Chicago, or MLA. All you need to do is adhere to the guidelines of your method. The citation managers can also help you with that.

4. When you quote someone – make it clear. Usually, you don’t want to quote word-by-word too often. However, if you need to do it – put quotation marks and include a page number of the source you used. This way, your supervisor or a potential reader knows where to look for this specific quote.

5. Make sure to organize your reference list in a proper way. Citation managers like Zotero or EndNote do it automatically. Alternatively, you can use one of the online citation generator tools. Don’t forget to double-check everything, just in case!

6. Do not pay anyone to write a research paper for you. There are many websites and agencies, that offer writing services. The only problem is… it would also be a complete fraud from you. The report that you will submit will have your name on it and if it’s going to be found that it was written by someone else – it may have consequences.

7. Whenever you translate a passage from a text, indicate it. In this case, referencing is not enough, but you should also make clear that the original text was translated. It is done to ensure that the author’s words won’t be misinterpreted.

8. Make sure to reference yourself as well. There is a thing called “self-plagiarism”. That might seem odd at first, but it makes perfect sense. If you use your own previous work – reference it as well.

9. Check your work before submitting it. As mentioned, there are many plagiarism-checking tools on the market. Tools such as Grammarly offer a free initial check. Other, more advanced paid offers also exist in the market. They offer advanced algorithms and an extensive database of publications. We recommend Scribbr’s plagiarism checker, which uses the same software and database as universities.

10. Don’t copy everything from others. Remember, that research is a combination of existing knowledge with new knowledge. Capitalize on the work of others, but don’t copy everything and propose your own ideas.

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