How to Avoid Plagiarism While Writing a Research Paper

Writing essays, theses, or research papers is an integral part of the academic curriculum in schools and colleges. Students are expected to dedicate time and effort to writing a well-researched piece. But what if the students don’t enjoy the process of writing a research paper? When writing becomes a chore, one might be tempted to plagiarize. Unwittingly, many students resort to plagiarism in an attempt to meet the submission deadlines. 

In this article, the focus is on understanding why students plagiarize, and on identifying different ways in which one can avoid plagiarism while writing a research paper: 

  1. Plan your work to meet the deadline: It might sound obvious, but one can’t stress enough the importance of planning a writing assignment in advance. Procrastination is one of the major factors behind students resorting to plagiarism. One might feel like there is a lot of time to write the paper, but time flies! Before you realize, panic sets in as the deadline comes knocking at the door. Chalk out a concrete plan by assigning enough hours for researching, writing, citing, and proofreading. And if one sticks to the plan, there won’t be any need to copy or buy papers online. 

  2. Spend enough time reading and researching: Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This quote holds true for writing a thesis as well. You might be a brilliant writer and have a way with words, but with no knowledge or understanding of the topic in question, you are bound to fail. Before putting pen to paper, thoroughly research the topic by reading and rereading from multiple reliable sources. It will not only help in attaining knowledge but will also help in gaining perspective and understanding the context. Writing with half-baked knowledge of concepts might lead to misquoting sources, and will eventually lead to unknowingly falling prey to accidental plagiarism. Remember that time spent researching is time well spent.

  3. Know what to cite and what not to: Often, students get confused while citing sources. A little bit of time spent in understanding what needs to be cited and what doesn’t will go a long way in beating plagiarism. For example, if one uses references from their previous works, then these need to be cited to avoid self-plagiarism. Facts, opinions, and scientific conclusions from personal experiments need not be cited.

  4. Learn how to cite properly: Once it is clear what needs to be cited, one needs to know how to include a citation correctly. If a college or university follows a particular format for citation, ensure that it is followed perfectly. It is really important to set a clear pattern for citation, i.e., do not cite half of the sources by adding hyperlinks in the text and the other half by using a bibliography. Ignorance and carelessness can lead to citation disasters. Set aside some time to properly cite the sources to avoid committing the folly of plagiarism.

  5. Use quotes when required: While stating someone’s words verbatim without any kind of paraphrasing, it is important to put them in quotes. Even if the sentence in quotes is grammatically incorrect, one isn’t supposed to correct it as those words are attributed to someone else and it might be considered as a case of misquoting.

  6. Proofread to identify any inconsistencies with the citation and quotes: It is a good habit to proofread your write-up as it not only helps you identify typos and grammatical errors but also helps you correct any mistakes in quotations as well as citations. It is better to be safe than sorry!  

  7. Use plagiarism checkers: One has to be naive to think that the professors do not check for plagiarism using a plethora of online tools. So, passing off someone else’s work as your own might have severe repercussions! And for those who researched and wrote their paper, it is good sense to run your written assignment through a reliable plagiarism checker. This will give you a better idea of whether the work is plagiarism-free or not.  

Last but not least, take pride in writing and enjoy the process. Happy writing!