Finding information for your next research paper is easier than ever before. With online databases and search engines like Google, facts about millions of subjects are only a few short clicks away. This speed of information sharing, however, has a potential negative consequence, in that it can make plagiarizing an easy mistake to make. Committing plagiarism, intentional or not, can have dire consequences on your academic career.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent committing plagiarism while writing your next paper.
- Properly use and cite all quotes
Quotes are a commonly used as evidence in research papers, but they require special care. You want to ensure that any quote you use is written exactly how it appears in the source. You then need to include a properly formatted citation that says where you took that quote from. When you are nearly done with your paper, simply search for any quotation marks and add in an in text citation to any that are missing.
- Include citations both in the text and at the end of your paper
Most citation styles require some type of in-text citations (either footnotes or parenthetical) and a corresponding citation at the end of your paper. The citations at the end are included in a separate page commonly called a bibliography, reference list, or works cited page, depending on the citation style you’re using. These citations signal to the reader that this information is from somewhere else, and you’re using it as evidence supporting your own thesis. Including both citations is crucial for preventing any accusations of plagiarism.
- Paraphrase with caution
Paraphrasing is a smoother way of demonstrating an idea you took from an outside source and included in your paper. It helps you create a writing flow, and prevents you from having a multitude of subsequent in-text citations. What is important to note, however, is you need citations even when you paraphrase information—not just when you quote. Simply include one at the end of the paraphrased section.
- Create an outline with sources before you start writing
Outlining can be a great way to not only organize your thoughts, but also to prevent accidental plagiarism. Writing down a quote and saying “I’ll cite it later” might seem like a good idea, but it’s easy to forget to go back and add the necessary citation. Outlining is a great solution to this. It can also help you present a more logical argument and save you some organizational headaches down the line.
- Take well-organized notes in class
Taking well-organized notes while in class is perhaps the best defense against plagiarism, as it forces you to think about the subject matter and form your own opinions on it. When it comes time to write your paper, having clear notes can make the process smoother and ensure that you get a better grade, in that you know you’re including information in your paper that your instructor deems relevant.
Use these tips to help ensure your paper is plagiarism-free. Citing doesn’t have to be a pain: use Cite This For Me to quickly help you create citations in MLA style, APA, the Chicago Manual of Style, and more!