How to avoid plagiarism

Plagiarism is a form of fraud. The prevention of plagiarism is therefore enormously important. Once you start writing your dissertation or thesis, you must work carefully to prevent plagiarism.

Write down all sources that you have used right away, cite and paraphrase in the correct manner and abide to the rules of the reference style that you must use.

Take 3 steps to prevent plagiarism

It is actually rather simple. You prevent plagiarism when you take the following three steps each time you use a source:

  1. Directly save the source.
  2. Quote or paraphrase the right way.
  3. Apply the source reference following the reference style you have to use.

1. Save the source

In a dissertation, you use many sources. To maintain an overview, it is important that you save the sources you use. You can then always quickly find your source again and you won’t forget about the fact you used a source or lose the source. For the management of the sources, you can use software such as EndNoteMendeleyCiteULikeRefBase, and Papers.

Practical tip

You can also choose to save PDFs, Word files and such on your computer. You would be wise then to give all the documents a clear name.

For example, use the author’s name and the year of publication. Later, you will need this information for the source referencing.

When you have consulted many sources via the internet, it is useful to add these pages to your favorites (make bookmarks). You can make a separate bookmark folder to which you add all the pages.

2. Quoting or paraphrasing

Once you have decided to use a source, you have two options. Either you are going to quote or you are going to paraphrase the source. The rules for quoting and paraphrasing are independent of the reference style that you use and they concern how you deal with sources in your dissertation. Therefore, this has nothing to do yet with the reference list.

Practical tips

To make a clear distinction between your own ideas and ideas that come from your sources, you can highlight text presenting ideas that are not yours. In this way, you can have an overview of which text is and is not your own.

For sources that you use often, you could choose separate colors. Doing so, you can immediately see where which sources are in your text.

Or, make a note while writing your dissertation, with a comment in Word, of where you got your source and whether you need to reformulate or paraphrase the fragment. Only remove the comment once the source is written in your own words and you have added the source reference.

3. Source referencing

Each time you use a source’s idea, a source reference belongs with it. The way in which you must write the source reference depends on the reference style that you must use.

Your educational program always clearly indicates which reference style you need to use or identifies a few acceptable options, from which you must choose. Once you’ve chosen a reference style, you need to use this style throughout your text.

Practical tip

Immediately note the source reference for any appealing idea; this way, you will never forget which idea is from which source. It is not yet important to format the reference entirely according to the rules of the reference style.

This you can do only during the final phase of writing your dissertation. Then, you can rather quickly collect the sources and, with cutting and pasting, put them together in a reference list.

Finalizing your dissertation

Step 1: Note all sources correctly according to the reference style

Now that you are almost done, it is important that you write the source references according to the rules of the reference style. For APA Style, you can make use of our free Scribbr APA Generator. This generator allows you to quickly and easily generate all your sources in the APA Style.

Directly to the APA Generator

Step 2: Check your dissertation for plagiarism with the Scribbr Plagiarism Check

To have peace of mind that your document is plagiarism-free, use the Scribbr Plagiarism Check to check your dissertation with the help of the official Ephorus database.

Check your document for plagiarism

Final tips

When in doubt, always acknowledge the source

If you doubt whether you should acknowledge a source, you should always choose to acknowledge it. You can never use too many sources and a good list of references often enhances your text.

For example, when you reach a certain conclusion in your dissertation, it is good to name which sources you have used to draw that conclusion.

Finishing your dissertation

When other people have contributed to your dissertation by conducting experiments or writing out a survey, you should mention this in your dissertation. You can make this mention in the preface, for example. If a dissertation was written by multiple people, you should state which parts were written by whom.

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Bas Swaen

Bas is co-founder of Scribbr. Bas loves to teach and is an experienced thesis writer. He tries to help students with writing clear and easy to comprehend articles about difficult topics.

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