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Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

  1. Keep copies of all of your sources if possible. Then if questioned about plagiarism you will have the original sources for evidence. If you are unable to keep copies, make sure you keep at least a list of sources with information, such as call numbers, so that you can easily retrieve that information.
  2. Reserve one color highlighter to mark passages that you might want to directly quote in your paper. Draft copies of the paper can also highlight those passages in the same color so that you can check the exact quote for accuracy against the original. Put quotation marks around exact quotes and make sure they really are EXACT.
  3. Another color highlighter can be used to mark passages you want to paraphrase. Be sure to check final versions of your paper against the original information to make sure your paraphrase hasn't become a direct quote inadvertently. Paraphrases should be cited. Even though written in your own words, the ideas behind the actual words belong to someone else.
  4. "Common knowledge" need not be cited, but what is "common knowledge?" Unique ideas MUST be cited. In general, factual information that is presented in more than one of your sources need not be cited. Common knowledge is not dependant on the source. Information mentioned in an encyclopedia article, if that is the ONLY place you find it, should be cited. Information on a web site, if that is the ONLY place it is mentioned, should be cited.
  5. Patchwriting, where one or two words in a sentence are changed, should be avoided. By simply changing a word in a sentence (like "many" to "several") you are not stating the idea in your own words. Think about the "big picture" of what an entire passage or paragraph is saying and make sure you understand its meaning. Change the sentence structure around and use vocabulary that is comfortable to you. If the idea is best expressed as a direct quote, you should cite it as such.
  6. Become comfortable with your preferred documentation style. Be sure that as you gather sources you are also getting all the information you will need to cite the source properly.
  7. Begin your research as early as possible and avoid procrastination. Research done quickly is prone to sloppiness, which may in turn become inadvertent plagiarism. Allow plenty of time for synthesizing the information you gather and plan to write multiple drafts of the paper itself.

Further information on plagiarism and other academic honesty policies can be found in the Buena Vista University Student Handbook.