How to Avoid Plagiarism
It’s not enough to know why plagiarism is taken so seriously in the academic world or to know how to recognize it. You also need to know how to avoid it. The simplest cases of plagiarism to avoid are the intentional ones: If you copy a paper from a classmate, buy a paper from the Internet, copy whole passages from a book, article, or Web site without citing the author, you are plagiarizing. Here’s the best advice you’ll ever receive about avoiding intentional plagiarism: If you’re tempted to borrow someone else’s ideas or plagiarize in any way because you’re pressed for time, nervous about how you’re doing in a class, or confused about the assignment, don’t do it. The problems you think you’re solving by plagiarizing are really minor compared to the problems you will create for yourself by plagiarizing. In every case, the consequences of plagiarism are much more serious than the consequences of turning in a paper late or turning in a paper you’re not satisfied to have written.
“…the consequences of plagiarism are much more
serious than the consequences of turning in a paper late…”
The consequences of accidental plagiarism are equally daunting and should be avoided at all costs. Whether or not you intended to plagiarize, you will still be held responsible. As a member of an intellectual community you are expected to respect the ideas of others in the same way that you would respect any other property that didn’t belong to you, and this is true whether you plagiarize on purpose or by accident. The best way to make sure you don’t plagiarize due to confusion or carelessness is to 1) understand what you’re doing when you write a paper and 2) follow a method that is systematic and careful as you do your research. In other words, if you have a clear sense of what question you’re trying to answer and what knowledge you’re building on, and if you keep careful, clear notes along the way, it’s much easier to use sources effectively and responsibly and, most of all, to write a successful paper. If you have questions about plagiarism at any point in your research or writing process, ask. It’s always better to ask questions than it is to wait for an instructor to respond to work that you have turned in for a grade. Once you have turned in your final work, you will be held responsible for misuse of sources.
© Harvard Guide to Using Sources