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Tips to Avoid Plagiarism

1. Be sure to give yourself enough time for research and writing

You are most likely to plagiarize when you are struggling to write a paper at the last minute. If you haven’t done any research and haven’t had time to construct a true argument, you might be tempted to save time by relying heavily on one or two resources. In your rush, you might closely paraphrase large sections of text or unintentionally use direct quotations without giving credit. To give yourself time for research and analysis, start thinking about the paper well before it is due.

2. Take careful notes and keep a detailed record of all sources

When done well, research includes taking lots of notes. Note taking style varies from researcher to researcher, but certain patterns should always be followed. Clearly indicate and provide location information for any duplication or paraphrase of original text in your note. This will help you avoid accidental plagiarism and allow you to quickly locate the original text. Furthermore, maintain a working bibliography while you research. This will assure that you don’t forget or lose a work that needs to be cited.

3. Limit quotations and paraphrases to instances when they are really necessary.

The more you rely directly on the work of others, the more likely you are to accidentally plagiarize. Remember, research papers rely on but do not simply duplicate the work of others. An over-reliance on quotes or paraphrases when they are unnecessary could suggest that you do not understand the information well enough to synthesize it for yourself.

Quotes or paraphrases are useful when another’s work is being used as a primary resource, or when you are summarizing.

4. When in doubt—cite.

You will not always be clear about what needs to be cited. In times of doubt, err on the side of caution. If a paraphrase seems similar to the original source, cite it. If it includes complex Ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own, cite it. If large sections of your paper were generated through consideration of someone else’s argument, include a general citation that explains how it influenced your work.

Adapted from “Port: Penn Online Research Tutorial,” Pennsylvania University Library

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