Simply put, plagiarism implies borrowing words or ideas from other people without giving due credit to the author. In academic works, proper citing is a major point of concern as intellectual property is a valuable asset. Actually, plagiarism is what you, as a student, should avoid by any means.
On the other hand, using quotes and findings of previous studies is a plus and mandatory in many cases. It gives weight to any academic paper and makes it trustworthy. That being said, it is important to use references and quotes properly.
Tips to Avoid Plagiarism
Most of the time, students allow plagiarism unintentionally. This is just because they cannot manage the issue, which, however, is not a justification. So you should be aware of the problem and know how to tackle it.
The first method to mention is proper citing. During the preparation stage, note thoroughly all information sources you select. This will help you provide references in the body text and make the bibliography section. While citing properly is an easy way to avoid this kind of problem, there is no universal citation format. Make sure you know the requirements your institution sets.
Quoting is another approach to borrowing other people’s ideas, and the simplest one. In this case, you can just copy the original words into your text and mention the author. If you need to modify original words to fit them into your work, you must inform about it explicitly to avoid distortion of the author’s words. General facts do not require quoting. Doing so would be a drawback.
Generally, using your own works published earlier can be considered as plagiarism too, namely auto-plagiarism or self-plagiarism. So, when your current paper is based on your own published works, the same quotation and citing requirements should be applied.
Another approach to avoiding plagiarism is known as paraphrasing. It implies putting someone’s idea in your own words. While an effective tool that many scholars use, it can be a real challenge to students who are only on their way to mastering it. The biggest difficulty here is the requirement to never copy more than two consecutive words from the original text. However, not only wordings are to be modified, but also the structure and style of the original statement. So, prior to using this method, consider if you will be able to paraphrase the passage adequately.
In this context, synonyms are a great language tool to benefit from. Replace as many words as possible. Such generic words as pen, sky or paper are an exception and may be left unchanged. To modify the original structure, you can break the statement into shorter sentences. Using a different voice or parts of speech can be helpful too.
Summarizing is a form of paraphrasing, when the original idea is provided in a concentrated, much shorter form.
Knowing and using properly these methods can help a student to avoid plagiarism-related problems and submit a high-grade paper. So mastering this academic skill is really rewarding.