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Filtering by Category: Plagiarism Prevention Tips


Ever encounter a quote that's almost a perfect fit for your argument? This week's poll explores whether modifying a quote  to fit your argument is an acceptable practice. If you've cited the source and followed all research writing practices, then changing a quote (with brackets) wouldn't be considered plagiarism, especially given the fact that you'll be writing an original paper with your own original thoughts...right? Voice your opinion and chime in if it's ok to modify a quote to support your argument. 



OK or not? Citing a source incorrectly


Published on by kennethb.

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Any time an idea is borrowed from a source—like a newspaper article, a YouTube video, a tweet, or a class lecture—that source needs to be cited. But that's not all. The way citations are written is also important. Not only are there different citation formats to follow, like APA or MLA, but the citation of different source types, whether a blog post or a speech or a photograph, also vary, even if just slightly, e.g. capitalization. In this video, English instructor Renee Swensen explains citation styles and documentation, essential knowledge for any writer to have in order to avoid plagiarism. Watch the video:

How to Cite YouTube & Other Sources from Turnitin on Vimeo.


Citation Styles and Documentation: Avoid plagiarism by learning how to cite YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and scholarly journals

MLA, APA, CMS, CSE etc.  If you have heard of these before, you have likely been asked to write a paper using them.  What do these acronyms stand for?

Let’s talk about your different courses for a moment.  You might have an English class, a psychology class, or a history class.  Different courses are housed under different fields of study and different fields have different groups who meet to decide how scholarly writing in that field should be presented.

For example, English falls under the Modern Language Association, psychology falls under the American Psychological Association.  These associations have manuals that explain how papers should be written in those disciplines.

CMS is called Chicago Manual of Style, which a history course might call for or CSE for Biology and other science courses.

The trick with these documentation styles is realizing you don’t have to memorize the style, you simply need to follow the guidelines, and use these guidelines as a reference.  That means you might need to look this information up each time your write an academic paper.

Guidelines will specify how the paper should be laid out, such as spacing, margins, headers, page numbers, etc.  It will also detail how to document any outside sources you used in the paper, such as in-text citations, footnotes, works cited pages or reference pages.

Knowing how to lay out the paper according to the documentation style is one thing, but knowing how to cite sources is quite another, and usually the most challenging for students.

Let’s walk through a practice source and look at how to break that source down to determine what kind of citation I need.  We’ll use APA as an example.

The first thing you need to do when looking at a source, especially one you accessed online, is determine what type of source it is.

This source gives you some clues.  It is a double-sided page, has an abstract or summary, a list of references, the title of the source, the main source may even have “journal of…” or looks like it has a specific audience of scholars.  This is definitely an academic journal.  You need to be able to differentiate between a journal, article in an online newspaper or a blog.

In order to cite the source correctly, you need to look up the type of source in a reference manual, so you can see what information is required in the citation.  These manuals often contain model citations for you to follow.

For a journal article I need to be able to match the information in the citation example with the information for my particular source.

A citation for a journal article looks like this:

Author. (year of publication). Title of article. Title of Academic Journal. Volume (Issue), pages.

Author’s last name and initials, the year it was published, the title of the articles (not in capital letters), the title of the academic journal italicized, the volume number, the issue number in parentheses, and the page numbers.  Luckily, I don’t have to memorize all this, just match my source with this sample.

Cherrier, H.

The author of the article is Cherrier, H. The year, (2006).  The title is consumer identify and moral obligations in non-plastic bag consumption: a dialectal perspective.  The journal title is International Journal of Consumer Studies, the volume is 30 and the issue is (5), with the page numbers 515-523.

An MLA citation for this journal would have some differences, such as capitalized titles, quotation marks, etc., so you need to reference up your required documentation style to get it right.

Now you have to remember that if you borrowed any ideas from a source, like a YouTube video you watched, Twitter, Facebook or a class lecture, you have to cite that source in your paper.

How to cite YouTube

APA style:

Author, A. A. [Screen name]. (year, month day). Title of video [Video file]. Retrieved from http://xxxxxxxxx

MLA style:

Last name, First name. OR Username. "Title of Video." Title of Site. Name of institution or publisher, Day Month Year of publication. Medium. Day Month Year of access.

Just remember that you need to take the time to get your citations right to avoid plagiarism.

See how to cite other common sources, including: An interview; speeches and lectures, a painting, sculpture or photograph; films or movies; sound recordings


Citing and Quoting

Published on by tiimarketing.

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These days, it seems as if it’s easier than ever to find someone to help you cheat.

If you don’t have the right connections or can’t find someone you trust at your school or college, you can always grab your credit card and go online, paying one of dozens of sites to write your paper for you.

These essay sites promise amazing things, claiming to be 100% plagiarism-free, able to produce high-quality papers on any subject, at any grade level and with extremely quick turnaround. However, even to an untrained eye those expectations seemed very unrealistic.

Academic writing, after all, takes time, especially at the graduate level and even with a small army of essay authors it’s difficult to imagine that they could locate experts on every single subject imaginable.

So we decided to put two of these sites to the test and see how their essays stacked up. We wanted to see not just if they could pass a plagiarism detection check, but also the quality of the work itself and whether it would likely receive a good grade for the assignment we gave them.

When we were done, the results were clear, we had spent a lot of money, but received nearly nothing of value for it.

The Test

Before conducting the test, we researched essay mill sites thoroughly and selected two of the largest, most popular sites based on their rankings in Alexa/Compete and in search engines for relevant terms.

With two sites selected, which from here on will be named simply 1 and 2 to avoid identifying them, we pretended to be a master’s-level student needing a master’s-level paper on a medical topic. For the exact topic, we found an online syllabus for a course at the appropriate level and based our assignment on one that was actually being given to students at a master’s-level class.

That assignment would be to write an informational paper on an issue of the author’s choosing related to financial issues and health policy.

The paper would have to meet the following criteria:

  1. Be written on a master’s degree level
  2. Be 6 double-spaced pages long (4 for the second paper)
  3. Include at least 5 sources in the works cited
  4. Be delivered in no more than four days.

With those instructions in mind we submitted the assignment to both sites and waited for our results.

Site 1 Essay Results (Cost: $150.00 for 6 pages or $37.50 per page)

The issues with Site 1 began even before we received the final paper. On the day the paper was due, we received an email from the site that informed us the author of our paper had experienced “personal problems” and would not be able to complete the paper on time. They asked us if we could give them two more days to finish the paper.

If we had been a real student facing a real deadline, this could have been disastrous, especially since the deadline day was a Sunday and it’s unlikely we would have had time to finish the project on our own.

The paper ended up being submitted just under 24 hours late and, after opening it, problems immediately began to emerge.

Though the paper met the requirements of the assignment in terms of length and sources, the paper was clearly not written on a master’s level. For one, there were several grammatical mistakes in the paper, including questionable and inconsistent uses of “health care” vs “healthcare” such as referring to physicians as “healthcare professionals” when the version with the space would have been a better choice.

The sources of the paper were also an issue. Though it had more than the five required sources there were no academic journals or private sources of any type. Among the sources were an article in Forbes magazine, two editorial pieces by political groups and free samples from a textbook that were available online.

The biggest problem, however, was that the paper didn’t seem to have a set topic, discussing a variety of issues and problems with healthcare in the U.S. even though the assignment called for focusing on just one. Instead, the paper, entitled “The Politics and Problems of Health Insurance” discussed everything from access to healthcare, to how new technology drives up the cost of care and more.

A plagiarism check of the paper revealed that it had a similarity score of just 11%. This is within the normal range, and, in looking at the matches found, most of the matching text was correctly attributed. However, there was one passage, approximately 40 words, that was copied near-verbatim without quotations from a WordPress.com blog that was not cited in the footnotes.

If I had been a student already suspected of plagiarism, this passage could have easily tripped alarms.

In short, the first paper cost us $150 and would have required heavy revisions and additional sources to be practical for the class. Even then, it might have drawn attention for plagiarism due to the suspect passage.

Site 2 Essay Results (Cost: $96 for 4 pages or $24.00 per page)

The second site was significantly cheaper and the process of buying and getting the paper was much smoother. The order was completed and returned on time without any problems.

However, immediately after opening, a glaring issue was found. Though we closely followed the sites guidelines on wordcount to get the correct page length (and the final paper met those requirements), the paper was only 3.25 pages long, meaning we would have had to add another ¾ of a page just to complete the assignment. Even counting the works cited, the paper was over ¼ a page short.

Grammatically, the paper was more sound, though there were several issues including missing commas and run-on sentences. Also, the paper exclusively used the word “healthcare”, indicating it may have been written by an author who was familiar with British English and was  unaware the convention hasn’t changed in the U.S.

More importantly, the content of the paper was almost unintelligible in places, meandering from topic to topic and routinely injecting opinion into what should have been a purely informative and educational paper. The paper included nonsensical and meaningless statements such as “Over the years, a number of legislation regarding the financing of healthcare have been passed” and “In conclusion, both public and private health covers are necessary.”

The paper did cite several journals and, when passed through a plagiarism checker, came back with only a 4% similarity score and all matching text being in the works cited. However, the paper would have required both extension and significant revision to be a viable paper for the course.


When it was all said and done, neither of the two papers were acceptable for their intended purpose. Both were written well below master’s level, contained multiple errors and failed to meet the criteria of the assignment in several ways. Though both did well on plagiarism detection, one still had a passage in it that would cast suspicion on anyone who turned it in.

To make matters worse, neither of these papers were cheap. At $100 and up for a relatively short assignment, likely one of many in that course, it’s clear that anyone who purchased this paper was seeking a final product they could turn in, something neither paper came close to providing.

Though both papers avoided appearing to be significantly plagiarized, it’s clear that these services are not shortcuts to turning in high quality work, especially at a graduate level. To turn either of these papers into a successful assignment likely would have required as much work, if not more, than simply writing the project from scratch.

So while these services may be able to avoid plagiarism detection, they are clearly not a shortcut to a good grade—and are highly unethical.

At the end of the day, there’s still no substitute for hard work and good writing.


Dangers of Responding to Online Ads: Writing Papers

Can ghostwriting be considered plagiarism?

Published on by jbailey.

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Written by K. Balibalos and J. Gopalakrishnan

OK or not? This is an age-old question on plagiarism that arises during the writing process, whether from researching a topic, incorporating and paraphrasing sources, or supporting arguments within a paper. Students commonly find themselves in situations in which ethical questions are raised, and, all too often, students wonder whether the decisions they made were the right ones.

This new poll series brings to light common scenarios—specifically focused on plagiarism and perhaps a few examples on other forms of academic misconduct—and helps students better think critically about situations in order to make ethical choices. All polls can be found on the WriteCheck page on Facebook.


“OK or not? You and a partner collaborate on a paper by sharing notes and paraphrasing the same ideas.”

11713 Ok or not Pic

11713 Ok or not Pic

We started off the series by asking about collaboration because collaborating with peers is a common thing to do among students. Students “collaborate” to complete schoolwork and to help their friends in need. But collaborating with peers can sometimes cross ethical boundaries. For example, in this question, has the student copied-and-pasted the other student’s work? The question doesn’t really get into that concern, but we do know that the students shared the same ideas by “paraphrasing”. This is where the question gets tricky. If done properly, meaning the student writes the idea in his/her own words and included citations, then paraphrasing is acceptable. Plagiarism is, by definition, the taking of another person’s work or ideas.

The Results

The majority of respondents (28) chose “not OK” in response to student collaboration on a paper. However, two viewers who weighed in had a different perspective.

English Instructor, Beth Calvano, made the following comment: “If the paper is supposed to be individual, this scenario is not okay. If, according to plagiarism rules, it is not acceptable to use another person's ideas without citing that individual, collaborating in this way is not ethical. Your paper should consist of your own notes and original ideas.”

Facebook fan Quenna Corchado agreed with Calvano, adding: “I think it's okay if they are citing. It doesn't matter if they are using the same sources as long as they cite it. They are helping each other out, so it makes sense that they are using the same notes and paraphrasing the same thing. What is important it to cite everything accordingly, which doesn't make it plagiarism.”

Overall, it can be concluded from these responses that it is “OK” to share notes and paraphrase the same idea with proper attribution, unless the assignment is supposed to be done individually.


“OK or not? You do a Google search of your subject and use Wikipedia, blogs and other social sharing sites as sources because of their easy access.”

050213 WCOK

050213 WCOK

This situation resonates with students because of the amount of free, available information due in part to the mass connectivity of the digital age. Nowadays, Wikipedia is synonymous with accessibility and reader-friendly information since it provides accurate information on nearly every topic one might be researching. The number of blogs on the internet grows exponentially by the day since anyone has the ability to create a blog and share their thoughts. And, of course, social sites are a normal part of millions of people’s lives. However, just because information is available on the web doesn't mean that it’s reputable to use as a source in your academic paper.

The Results

Based on 34 respondents, “depends” was the top answer, followed by “not OK” (20 respondents).

To provide some insight, Jason Chu from Plagiarism.org weighed in with the following comment: “It's OK to use Google search, Wikipedia, and social sharing sites as the starting point for doing research for a paper. But you should NOT rely on these sources alone. In fact, Wikipedia entries typically list references that are great to use in your research in support of your paper. But, by and large, sources that rely heavily on crowd-sourced or shared content--like Wikipedia or Yahoo! Answers--do not carry the same authority as a peer-reviewed journal article, for example.”

Jessica from WriteCheck argued that it was “not OK,” citing educator insight that social sites should never be cited in research papers. Academic writing requires looking at primary or secondary sources, which are typically presented in academic journals, whereas Wikipedia is written for the general public.

Overall, it can be concluded that the answer is “depends”. Social sites like Wikipedia can be used as a starting point for research papers, but adding academic credibility to your sources will result in a more thorough and scholarly research paper.


“OK or not? You get 2 assignments with enough overlap to submit the same paper to both.”

060613 WCOK

060613 WCOK

The most recent poll was inspired by a recent article on the Ethicist, a blog on the New York Times, entitled, Can I Use the Same Paper for Multiple College Courses? Some readers see it as a stroke of genius, while others view it as the mark of laziness. Some suggest that it is cheating, while others opine that you are only cheating yourself. International Business Times writer James DiGioia disagreed with The Ethicist in his article, The Ethicist is Wrong: Self-Plagiarism is Cheating. Given those different opinions, we wanted to see what our WriteCheck community thought. “Is it ok to submit one paper for two assignments?”

The Results

The results were evenly split among the poll respondents between “not OK” and “OK”. The Ethicist describes why this situation is tricky, explaining that emotionally, our hearts cry that “this must be unethical, somehow,” but aside from these emotions, he argued that there were no grounds that inherently make submitting papers to multiple assignments unethical.

Unlike James Digioia, Jason Chu of Plagiarism.org agreed somewhere in the middle, saying: “OK--if instructor approval is received. Not OK otherwise.”

In summary, although debatable, it could be concluded that submitting a paper to multiple assignments is “OK” with approval from both instructors. Otherwise, it may be a violation of university-wide academic integrity codes and generally accepted principles that assignments are unique to a class.


These three scenarios are real-life situations that students may face at one point in their academic journeys. Some scenarios may appear more straight-forward than others, however, no plagiarism allegation is simple. Self-plagiarism, for example, may make more sense in a professional or scholarly environment because of copyright issues. Self-plagiarism is a grey area, and a relatively new term within academia, and is still to be explored. Wikipedia also is a newly introduced site, becoming popular only within the last decade.

While definitions and rules of plagiarism are debated, learning the definitions and how to cite properly, as well as working with instructors when a question arises are all ways to avoid plagiarism and academic misconduct.

Have you encountered situations where you asked yourself “OK or not?” Continue the conversation on Facebook and stay tuned for more installments to the OK or Not? poll series!


WriteCheck User Survey Highlights 2013

Plagiarism in the Classroom: Tune Out of Listen & Learn?

Published on by kennethb.

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Knowing how to check an essay for plagiarism is crucial for the college student. Even if a student believes that he or she has cited, paraphrased, quoted, and referenced properly, problems can occur. If too many mistakes are made in any or all of these areas, text in a paper may be technically plagiarized.

Cite Properly

Citing properly entails checking your educational institution’s writing style guidelines (APA, ML, etc.) for citation writing instructions. Follow these rules closely. Every time another’s idea is used in the essay, a citation is needed.

Paraphrase Correctly

Paraphrasing can be time-consuming, but a student must put information or ideas found from any source into his or her own words and cite the source. Copying the words verbatim is plagiarism. This exercise also helps students understand the material that they are including in their essay. Checking an essay to ensure that ideas are paraphrased and cited correctly are crucial aspects in knowing how to check an essay for plagiarism.

Insert Quotes -- And Don't Over-Quote

Quoting is another area of concern. When using the exact words of another author, three or more words, quotation marks must be included around those words. Again, a citation is needed after a direct quote. Another issue in knowing how to check a paper for plagiarism is not using too many quotes. Each educational institution or instructor should share how much quoted information is acceptable.

Reference Accurately

References are essential defenses against plagiarism. Each citation used in an essay must be supported by a reference. As with citations, references and the reference page require a specific format. A student needs to check that each citation used in his or her essay has a reference on the reference page.

Use a Plagiarism Checker

Another way to check an essay for plagiarism and to confirm that all of the essential areas have been completed properly is to use plagiarism checker software. WriteCheck plagiarism checker is available online and convenient to use, and includes a grammar check. Or using Turnitin through a school or university is equally effective. With both options, after submitting a paper, the student receives a report that includes a similarity index percentage. The index shows three types of sources: internet, publications, and student papers. Each area that shows similarity is highlighted to show with what type of source the similarity exists. Many students find that running their papers through plagiarism checker software provides  peace of mind that they haven't made any inadvertent writing mistakes.

Knowing how to check an essay for plagiarism is vital for the college student. Checking the key areas of citing, paraphrasing, quoting, and referencing can help to safeguard against plagiarism. Using plagiarism checker software can also ensure that the essay includes original material and is free of plagiarism.


6 Ways to avoid plagiarism

Plagiarism Guide

Published on by bcalvano.

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Written by Shelley Mitchell from Oklahoma State University who is finishing her PhD in Health, Leisure and Human Performance
Why is it important to write original content?
It is important to write in your own words so that you contribute something new to society. If everyone copied someone else’s writing, it would be impossible to advance as a society (we’d still be copying each other’s petroglyphs!), not to mention how boring it would be! When you write in your own words, you say something in a new way—perhaps this new way will help someone else understand a topic they didn’t previously understand. If you explain a topic from a different angle than others do, people who think more along your lines of thinking will be able to grasp the concept better. This happens with teaching all of the time. I have a bachelor’s degree in Biological Science, but I understood biology a LOT better after having students who all learned differently. After explaining biological concepts a hundred different ways (at least!), not only did I understand a concept better, but more students did as well.
Why is it important for students to write original content?
Along the lines of teaching, I have to say that writing in your own words saves you, as a student, a lot of embarrassment and low grades. When I encountered plagiarism, I had to inform the parents of a student that they were getting a zero on an assignment because they didn’t turn in their own work. Those conversations were not fun for me, the parent, or the student. The worst case I had was a student who turned in a three-page paper, handwritten, with a quotation mark at the beginning of the paper and a quotation mark at the end. He didn’t include a bibliography (not that it would have changed his grade) either. When I called his mother, she was angry about his grade, saying, “He used quotation marks!” Whether proper credit is given or not, if you do not use your own words to explain something, teachers have none of your work to grade. Writing is more than finding specific information and cutting and pasting it into a document. We as teachers want to see that a) you understand the information, and b) you understand it enough to say it in a different way. If you cannot say it in your own words, you do not understand the information enough to pass a test on the subject, so study the information until you do. If you can explain something a multitude of ways, you really know your information. Take it from a biology major---the more you can put something in your own words, the more you know your ‘stuff’, and the more prestige you will have among your peers.
How does WriteCheck help students and writers?
WriteCheck is a big time saver and worry killer, both from a student perspective and a teacher perspective. As a doctoral candidate working on her dissertation, I use WriteCheck before submitting drafts to my committee. Although I am pretty sure I have everything documented and credited correctly, it is a big relief to submit my writing to WriteCheck and make sure everything is original before submission. Plagiarism, even if unintended, is a surefire way to end your graduate career. When you are writing 100+ pages, there is a chance you may overlook something, so it’s nice to have WriteCheck ‘have your back’ and double-check your work for you. As a teacher, I used to type suspicious sentences from student papers into a search engine, looking for plagiarism. Now I can check the whole document with ease---what a time saver! And since WriteCheck finds the original sources, it provides the evidence needed to prove plagiarism (for those helicopter parents whose students can do no wrong). Teachers and students can both breathe sighs of relief with WriteCheck proofing their papers.

Published on by Guest.


Recently, WriteCheck conducted a poll on its Facebook page that asked students: “When teachers discuss plagiarism, do you:" along with five answers to choose from that best fits their reactions. Based on 126 responses, the results are shown below, located to the left of each choice:

49% Tune out: blah blah blah 27% Help spread the word: this is serious stuff 21% Listen & learn: maybe I'm accidentally plagiarizing 2% Yawn and take a nap 1% Jab the person next to me: He/she plagiarizes

It's reassuring to see that 48% of the students who answered the survey pay attention and do CARE to learn about plagiarism in the classroom; however, it is alarming to see that the majority (51%) have no interest in learning about plagiarism.

It's almost a split group, but given the heightened state of plagiarism cases and awareness in professional and academic environments, favorable student reactions are expected to be stronger.

Why It's Important to Care

Before you 51% nod off or mentally check out. If you are one of the 51%, let's take a look at some of the possible ramifications. Yes, the subject of plagiarism can seem dull, but if presented in the right way, perhaps the topic will take on new meaning.

You are living in a world with a global economy and a global job market. You will be in the same job market and in the same college courses as the 48% who don’t think that plagiarism is just another boring subject. If you want to compete for the best jobs, your communication skills will be a hot commodity. Corporations are looking for workers who communicate effectively in person and in writing.

Ignorance of plagiarism rules is not an acceptable excuse if you get yourself into trouble. Learning the intricate details of plagiarism in college can save your academic and professional careers.

3 Ways to Avoid Plagiarism

1. One way to help ensure your success is to get involved in the process of plagiarism detection. If your educational institution uses plagiarism checker software, use it; test it out and learn how it works. Upload one of your papers to the software. How well did you paraphrase? Did you quote too often? Learn how to find plagiarized material by “googling” phrases or sentences from plagiarized material.  Observe how easily material can be found on the Internet.  Some professors use this technique to find out if students are using someone else’s work.

2. If you have recently learned to paraphrase and quote properly (with citations and references), test your new found skills by submitting your papers to plagiarism detection software so you can see the results for yourself.  Pick out the mistakes. Most people learn best by doing. Getting personally active in the process can help you take an interest and remember the details of plagiarism prevention.

3. Research stories about individuals’ lives that were ruined because of plagiarism. Many useful tips for avoiding plagiarism are available online.

Remember, you are accountable for your actions, and plagiarism is an ethical offense, basically stealing. Students are a reflection of their educational institutions, and school, college and university administrators want to be represented well. They also want students to be well-prepared for the global job market. The better you look, the better they look!

Fifty-one percent of students answered the WriteCheck survey negatively. Use some imagination to gain a better understanding of plagiarism. Involving yourself in the process of plagiarism detection can take the “boring” out of the subject matter. You must care about plagiarism; your academic and professional lives may depend on it.


Published on by bcalvano.

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