Avoiding Plagiarism in Research - A Quick Guide

Building upon the work of other researchers is essential to writing a great research paper. Because of this, it is a critical skill for any researcher to learn how to avoid committing plagiarism of a research paper. Plagiarism comes in a variety of forms, and avoiding research paper plagiarism is not quite as simple as making sure you always use quotation marks. Let’s look at some different types of plagiarism and strategies for avoiding research paper plagiarism to ensure the success of your research career.

What is Plagiarism in Research?

Plagiarism is when you use someone else’s words or ideas without properly attributing the work to that person. It is a serious offense, and for good reason. Imagine how you would feel if someone else used your hard work and research in their own paper without giving you any credit or asking your permission. In many academic institutions, plagiarism is cause for discipline or even expulsion. Published academic authors who are found to have plagiarized may have their papers retracted and lose their jobs and reputations.

Research paper plagiarism can take a variety of forms, including direct plagiarism, paraphrasing plagiarism, mosaic plagiarism, and self-plagiarism. Research paper plagiarism can be as simple as copying and pasting text from another source directly into your paper, or as nuanced as taking sentences from multiple sources and weaving them together without substantive changes or proper attribution. The most common types of research paper plagiarism are    

  1. Direct plagiarism: Copying text from another source straight into your paper without citing the source or using quotation marks. 
  2. Paraphrasing plagiarism: Paraphrasing ideas from another source without indicating that the ideas are not your own. 
  3. Mosaic plagiarism: Copying or paraphrasing ideas from multiple sources and weaving them together without proper citation or attribution to the original source. Many writers who commit this type of research paper plagiarism simply change a few synonyms and reorganize sentences so that it isn’t copied word-for-word from the original text. However, this is still plagiarism!
  4. Self-plagiarism: Reusing your own previously published or submitted work without indicating the source. Yes, you even need to cite yourself as a source in a research paper to avoid committing research paper plagiarism!

How Can I Avoid Committing Plagiarism in a Research Paper?

So how can you avoid committing plagiarism of a research paper? Should you just not use information from other sources at all? Don’t worry! You can and should refer to other sources when you are writing a research paper. To avoid plagiarism, you just need to do four things: 

1. Keep track of your sources
2. Cite your sources using the proper citation format
3. Learn how to paraphrase correctly
4. Use a plagiarism checker

Keep track of your sources

As you do the background work for your research paper, you should keep careful track of your sources and any useful information that you find in each source. There are multiple ways to do this. Some researchers choose to note down bibliographic information and quotes on physical index cards, while others prefer to keep a Works Cited file that they update regularly. Reference managers like EndNote or Mendeley can also help you track your sources easily. Information including the author, date, title, and publisher, or URL if it is an online source, should all be recorded. By noting the source information with your notes, you will have no problem knowing where ideas came from and properly citing them in your research paper, thereby avoiding research paper plagiarism.

Cite your sources properly using the proper citation format

Depending on what kind of research paper you are writing, you may be given strict citation guidelines. Citation styles like Chicago, MLA, APA, and Bluebook all have their own rules for how to cite sources within your research paper text and in the bibliography or references section of your research paper. By becoming familiar with different citation styles, you can ensure that your references can easily be checked and found by others who read your work. But don’t leave your citations to the last minute. Citing as you write is one of the best ways to avoid research paper plagiarism.

Learn how to paraphrase correctly

As mentioned above, paraphrasing should use your own words, not simply rearrange the original sentence or change the original wording to incorporate synonyms. You must change both the words and the sentence structure to properly paraphrase. For example:

Original text (author: Grant, 2015): Many nations feared that the introduction of patent requirements on medicines would inhibit access to lifesaving medication and affordable generics, having a negative impact on public health policy.

Unacceptable paraphrase: Many countries worried that the introduction of patent requirements for medicines would block access to essential medication and cheaper generics, thereby having a bad impact on public health policy.

Acceptable paraphrase: Grant (2015) notes that there was widespread international concern that the introduction of intellectual property protections to pharmaceuticals would have negative repercussions for public health policy by reducing the availability of essential medications and cheaper generic drugs.

In the first paraphrase example, the writer has merely changed some of the words to synonyms and left the original sentence structure intact. They have also failed to cite the original source in any way. In the second example, the writer has reworded the idea and changed the sentence order so that it conveys the same meaning, but is in the writer’s own words. They have also noted the original source.

Use a plagiarism checker

Once you have finished writing your research paper, use a plagiarism checker like the one offered by Enago to check for any passages that you may have plagiarized. Remember, research paper plagiarism is a problem regardless of whether it is committed on purpose or accidentally. Plagiarism checkers use AI to compare your writing to a vast online database of websites and sources to identify any plagiarism and highlight the problematic passages for you. Enago's Plagiarism Checker, in partnership with Turnitin, uses the most sophisticated algorithms to detect plagiarism against 91+ billion current and archived web pages. Inclusion of Scholarly Articles check allows easy comparison against additional 82+ million open source and paywalled scholarly articles from 1,700+ publishers. It also provides an automated grammar check for your document in track changes to improve your writing quality. This ensures that you don’t accidentally commit research paper plagiarism before you submit your work.

Writing a research paper is hard work, and just as you hope others will recognize your effort, you must also recognize the efforts of other researchers. Use the tips in this article to make sure that you don’t commit research paper plagiarism!