What is plagiarism and how to avoid it

Plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s work or ideas and presenting them as your own. When using someone else’s work or ideas, you should either paraphrase, quote or summarize the original text and include a citation.

Types of plagiarism

To avoid plagiarism, you first need to understand and be aware of the different types of plagiarism. Some examples of plagiarism include:

  • Using someone else’s words without citing the original author
  • Stealing an idea and pretending it is your own
  • Paying for someone else to write your paper
  • Using a paper you submitted previously and presenting it as completely new (self-plagiarism)

The consequences of plagiarism are serious as it is a form of fraud. Preventing plagiarism is therefore enormously important. The good news is that there are some easy ways to avoid plagiarism.

Paraphrase, quote or summarize to avoid plagiarism

To share the ideas of others, you must quote, paraphrase or summarize the source. It is
critical that other researchers’ ideas are correctly cited. This is a key step in avoiding plagiarism. When you do not cite the quotes or ideas used, you are committing plagiarism.

In general, paraphrasing or summarizing is better than quoting as it shows the reader that you truly understand the original source. It also provides you with the opportunity to exclude irrelevant information. You should only use quotes when:

  • You are using an exact definition introduced by the original author
  • It is impossible for you to rephrase the original piece without losing its meaning
  • You want to maintain the authority of the author’s words

Example of quoting

Every description of the scene of an event or of the position of an object in space is based on the specification of the point on a rigid body (body of reference) with which that event or object coincides (Einstein, 1920, pp. 5–6).

  • The text is copied word-for-word from the original
  • Quotation marks are used
  • The correct citation is included

Example of paraphrasing

(Tip: for better understanding, read the original paragraph)

More than 150 Russian diplomats were expelled from over two dozen nations following the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei V. Skripal in early March 2018. Skripal and his daughter both survived the toxic nerve-agent attack that sparked a confrontation between Russia and the West (Schwirtz and Barry, 2018, para. 3).

  • The text has been rewritten in your own words as much as possible
  • The correct citation is included

Save your sources

As soon as you take note of any information from a particular source, either save it or record all the relevant information so you can easily find it again later.

You can simply bookmark the sources you use or make use of special software such as EndNote, Mendeley, RefBase or Papers. If you are applying the APA citation style in your research, you can use the free APA Citation Generator.

Include in-text citations and a reference list

Every mention of an idea from another source must include both an in-text citation and a full-length reference in the reference list at the end of the paper to avoid plagiarism.

Example or in-text citation (in APA style):

In a recent article about the types of plagiarism (Shabe, 2018) found that …

Example of reference list entry (in APA style):

Shabe, L. (2018, September 24). 5 common types of plagiarism. Retrieved from https://www.scribbr.com/plagiarism/5-common-types-plagiarism/

These citations help the readers of your paper identify the original author(s) and locate the original source by providing helpful information, such as a book title, a website URL or a publisher name. To help you correctly cite sources, you can use citation generators such as the APA Citation Generator.

The formatting of your in-text citations and reference list will depend on the citation style you use – for example, APA style, MLA or Chicago. If you’re not sure which style to use, you can use our guide to citation styles.

Run a plagiarism check

There is one final step to submitting a plagiarism-free paper: performing a plagiarism check. Use a plagiarism checker to ensure you’ve cited all the information you’ve taken from others.

Plagiarism technology scans your document and highlights the passages of text that are detected as potential instances of plagiarism.

Keep in mind that your paper will be run through your university’s plagiarism checker upon submission, so performing one yourself is a good idea.

The Scribbr Plagiarism Checker Powered by Turnitin is the best plagiarism checker for students. It uses the same technology as many universities worldwide. Check your paper in only 10 minutes!

Scribbr Plagiarism Checker

Frequently asked questions

Checklist: Avoid plagiarism

0 / 6

Well done!

Your paper should be free from plagiarism! Now it's time to run a plagiarism check, to put your mind completely at ease.

Run a plagiarism check
Is this article helpful?

Raimo has a bachelor's and master's degree and has written several papers and theses. He likes to share his knowledge by writing helpful articles.

Comment or ask a question.