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Advice for New Students on Plagiarism

As summer winds down and schools begin to return to session, students are returning to the classroom and, for many, it’s their first year in a new school. If you are one of those students, you’re likely going to be in a different education environment than what you are used to.

But one of the most difficult things of being in a new environment is understanding what is expected of you. While that’s true of all areas of education, plagiarism is an issue that is both very important and, often times, confusing for students.

As such, it’s important to take time to understand the issue of plagiarism and what steps you can take to avoid running afoul of your school’s policies.

On that note, here’s some advice for students nervous about plagiarism to avoid being accused of it.

Read Your School and Class Policies

This one is straightforward. Read carefully your school’s policies on plagiarism and, if any of your class syllabi have plagiarism policies, read those as well. Understand thoroughly what your school and your instructors expect of you. Of particular interest is what citation format is desired (MLA, APA, etc.) and when citation is expected.

You can’t avoid breaking a rule if you aren’t aware of it so the first step is always to read and understand the rules around plagiarism thoroughly.

Adopt a Cleanroom for Your Writing

When writing for your classes, do not copy and paste text into your work without immediately citing it. Even if you intend to change or rewrite it later, those types of plans can be forgotten resulting in plagiarized text in your work.

Likewise, when paraphrasing, don’t look at or read from what you’re trying to summarize. Instead, hide it to ensure that you write it in your words rather than pulling from the source.

In short, every time text is copied and pasted, it should be done for a valid reason and followed with immediate citation, regardless of where in the project you are.

Make Every Effort

There’s a very large difference between failing to cite 100% perfectly and failing to cite at all. The first may hurt your grade on an assignment while the latter can land you in serious trouble with the school.

Sadly, some students, when confused by citation standards, just give up and don’t even try. They often pay a serious price.

It’s much better to do citation poorly/incompletely than it is to not do it at all. This is especially true if you study the corrections and learn for the next assignment.

Talk With Your Instructors

If you are confused about your citation or have a question about a specific case, ask your instructor or their assistants. Visit them during office hours or after class. 

If you talk about your issues with them and get their advice, not only will you learn more about citation but you’ll have put them on alert that you are struggling in this area and trying.

Use Technology

Most schools use some form of plagiarism detection technology to check student work. It makes sense to check your own work before submitting it.

The reason to do this is to try and spot any mistakes you might have made that could send up red flags. While there shouldn’t be any if you use a cleanroom, it’s always possible that you might have used language that could match other sources and draw unwanted suspicion.

It’s worth a few seconds to check your own work just to be 100% sure.


All in all, plagiarism is fairly easy to avoid but it requires being proactive. This includes considering it at the start of the year, as you are writing and as you are going through your coursework.

Waiting until duplicate text has been found in your work is the worst time to start thinking about the issue as, by then, the damage has likely been done. 

With plagiarism, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today, and do not reflect the opinions of WriteCheck

Published on by jbailey.