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This is the final post in a four-part series examining how students can avoid plagiarism in their written work. So far, I have covered the importance of a clear paper trail, citing as you write and giving credit to words and ideas. The final tip for avoiding plagiarism is to look to technology to provide peace of mind before you submit your paper. If you have any concern that you may have missed a citation or you have to submit the paper to Turnitin, it may be worthwhile to first check your paper for plagiarism with WriteCheck (disclaimer: I work for Turnitin which is the creator of WriteCheck).

WriteCheck scans your paper against the Turnitin databases and returns results that details what text in your paper was found to match the content in the databases. Once you have the results you may then exclude quoted and bibliographic material from the report to see if any text not within quotes or your bibliography is found to match content in the Turnitin databases. Don’t worry WriteCheck does not store your paper in a database.

The consequences of plagiarism can be severe; from failing a class, suspension, to getting kicked out of school. So make sure you take the proper steps to avoid any form of plagiarism in your papers.

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This is the third post in a four-part series discussing how students can avoid plagiarism. In the first two posts, I discussed the importance of maintaining a good paper trail during the research process and citing while you write to ensure proper attribution. The third simple tip to avoid plagiarism and one that students often overlook is to give ideas the same credit as words.

If there is ever an instance when you agree strongly with another person’s idea you should always cite them as a source and then comment or expand on that idea. The definition of plagiarism based on the Apple dictionary is: “the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.” Many people often forget that it is not only the copying of work but also passing off someone else’s idea as your own that is considered plagiarism.

I know that there appears to only be a limited amount of ideas out there but oftentimes by using someone else’s idea as an initial foothold and properly attributing the idea to its owner, it allows you to climb to a higher level of thought and analysis.

Published on by mark.

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In the last post, I shared my first tip on how to avoid plagiarism during the writing process. Students who clearly prepare and document sources during the research process are much less likely to plagiarize than disorganized writers. The second tip stems directly from the first: cite as you write.

When you include sources into your writing it is always a good idea to cite as you write. Although the main citation styles: MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian have slight variations in the way sources are supposed to be cited; it is always a good idea to include the author’s last name and page number in parenthesis after a paraphrased or quoted instance of text. One you’ve finished the paper, you can go back and make the adjustments to the citations instead of scouring through the textbooks, periodicals or Internet sources looking for where you found this text.

There are two main objections to this practice. First, which the vast majority of students have been guilty of at some point in their lives is procrastination or, to put it more bluntly, laziness. Many students view citing sources as the least enjoyable part of writing. Students delay and it can cost them.

The second objection we often hear is that it interrupts the flow of writing. Students often wait to the last minute to begin their work and then enter into a ‘zone’ where text pours onto the paper. Citing sources interrupts this process and delays completion of the assignment.

While both objections are legitimate, students need to weigh the cost of not citing their sources during the writing process. Simply put, the hard work of citation needs to be done before the assignment is complete. It is best to perform it during the process rather than later.

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At Turnitin, we get a lot of questions about the best way for students to avoid plagiarism.

In a series of four blog posts, I will share four simple practices to avoid unintentional plagiarism, one kind of plagiarism that we see at Turnitin.

Like any endeavor, writing is a practice where preparation and organization can go a long way to ensuring success. The first way to avoid plagiarism in your paper is to make a source list of all the sources you have used while researching your topic.

The first and most important step to prevent plagiarism in your paper is to take detailed notes about what sources you used in your research. While researching and taking notes about the paper’s topic make sure that you write down the sources citation information. Since most research is now done online, it’s easy to get sucked into copy and paste note taking. Without diligent capturing of source information a student could be left in a tough spot near the assignment deadline as they scramble to cite all the sources in their paper.

I speak from personal experience. When writing my senior thesis, I stayed up late into the night properly citing all my sources because I did not make an adequate source list. Let me tell you that the weeklong eye twitch due to my high caffeine intake that long night could have been avoided if I had been better organized during the research process.

Creating a clear paper trail during the writing process is one simple way to avoid plagiarism. In the next post, I will share another lesson learned in avoiding unintentional plagiarism.

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WriteCheck Similarity ScoreAt this time of year, we hear from students who say, "Grrr! Why does Turnitin show a plagiarism percentage even though I have properly quoted and cited all my sources? I am not a plagiarizer!" The answer is that Turnitin produces a similarity index NOT a plagiarism score. Turnitin will highlight ANY matching material in a paper—even if it is properly quoted and cited.  Just because it appears as unoriginal does not mean it is plagiarized; it just means that the material matches something in our databases.

Perhaps your assignment specifies that all your source materials must be summarized and/or paraphrased rather than quoted. Well paraphrased and/or summarized material may not show up as unoriginal in Turnitin - but must be cited in any case.  Many students need help learning to paraphrase, summarize, and attribute their source materials; ask your instructor or writing center for help if you don't know how to do this. You can also get some helpful tips from Purdue's Online Writing Lab (OWL) and from WriteCheck's resources section.

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