How to Avoid Plagiarism in Your Academic Papers 

Whenever you write a paper at school or college, you will need to use evidence from outside sources to prove your argument. Yet, if you are taking someone else’s idea and use it as your own, you are committing plagiarism. Sometimes students plagiarize content just because they forget to include a source or misquote a passage. Such issues result from a lack of training. Students feel confused as they do not know what exactly needs to be cited and how to do it. Luckily, a few simple rules can help you avoid disciplinary proceedings due to unintentional plagiarism. 

When Do We Need to Cite a Source? 

Whenever you use an idea that is not your own, you must give credit to the original author. The rule is as simple as that. Your sources may vary: books, research papers, critical analysis and journal articles, dictionary entries, songs, TV series episodes, letters, and even in-person interviews. Anything you borrow should be followed by a corresponding in-text citation and a reference list entry. Mentioning where information comes from acknowledges the original author and makes your work legitimate. 

Naturally, your own thoughts, insights, audiovisual materials, and experiences do not require any citations. However, you should beware of self-plagiarism, which takes place when you partially or fully copy your previous papers. If you refer to your own published works, you will also need to cite this information.

One more aspect that seems confusing to students is whether to cite common knowledge and generally accepted facts. Typically, they do not require any referencing. However, you need to make sure that this information comes from your own brain, not from course materials or your lecturer. 

How to Format Citations? 

In most cases, your teacher or professor will ask you to follow a particular citation manual. You can find it either online or at the local library. Your paper should have consistent and well-organized citations, so make sure you follow all the rules. For example, the MLA style requires you to mention the author’s name and the page number in in-text citations. Using APA-style referencing, you will have to include the author’s name and the year of publication, but the page number is optional. In a Chicago paper, you will use footnotes instead of parenthetical citations to provide the necessary information. If citation guidelines seem confusing to you, explore writepaper.com. You can get accurate citations for any type of academic paper. Remember that it is always better to ask for help than face plagiarism consequences. 

How to Use Direct Quotations Without Plagiarizing a Source? 

Direct quotations indicate that you cite someone else’s ideas verbatim. Always write the exact words that appear in the original work and place them in quotation marks. Be sure to include the author’s name, publication year, and page number in a signal phrase, parenthetical citation, or footnote. The choice depends on the citation manual you are required to use. 

Example
According to Smith (2019), “nursing theory is stimulated by questions and curiosities arising from nursing practice” (p. 9). 

How to Paraphrase? 

Paraphrasing is not that easy as you may think. This skill requires practice. It means that you have to put the author’s idea in your own words. This process is not limited to substituting a couple of words with synonyms or changing the sentence structure. You should rephrase the original sentence completely and cite it in the text of your paper. 

Example
Guzman (2020) states that art therapy has a positive influence on mental health. 

To paraphrase information, read the source attentively. Then, try to restate the idea in your own words without looking at the text. Make sure you explain and complement it with your insights and ideas. Remember that this process is aimed at supporting your point of view, not retelling the original work. 

If you do not know whether to use a direct quote or paraphrase the information, it is better to choose the latter. It will show your understanding of the source material. Yet, if you want to interpret the exact words used by the author, you are free to quote directly. 

How to Use Visual Materials in Academic Papers? 

Coping photographs, paintings, maps, charts, graphs, logos, and even memes without giving credit to the author is also considered to be plagiarism. If you refer to any visual materials in your work, even if it is only an informative piece, you need to cite them in the same way you cite ideas from different types of publications. Usually, it involves mentioning the author, date of publication or creation, title, medium, source, and link if available. Consult your referencing manual to learn the formatting standards and include the necessary information. 

To Sum it all Up 

If you submit an original and plagiarism-free paper, you will demonstrate good research conduct and impress your teacher or professor with a high level of preparation. Citations indicate the ideas of other people and separate them from your own unique analysis and conclusion. It makes your writing more solid and trustworthy. Besides, accurate citations can help your readers to locate the sources you have used and learn more about the topic. With our guidelines, you can avoid plagiarism and boost your academic performance.