Imagine this, you’re a professor at a university, and a student turns in their final paper. You skim through the student’s work, and it starts looking vaguely familiar. It’s almost as if you wrote it yourself. Suddenly, it comes to you—it’s your work. Your student copied the research you compiled nearly 20 years ago.
How would that make you feel?
Insulted? Perplexed? Maybe even amused? Well, it’s happened to plenty of professors and any of these reactions would be justified.
Plagiarism is one of the worst offences a student can commit. At best, their work is given a grade of zero. At worst, the student is expelled from the university. All in all, getting accused of plagiarism is something to avoid at all costs. But sometimes, it can still happen by mistake.
So, how can you, as a student, avoid plagiarism? And if it happens, what’s your recourse if you face plagiarism charges? What if you’re found guilty?
In this article, we talk all about plagiarism—how to avoid plagiarism if you’re a university student, and some of the common types of plagiarism.
What is Academic Plagiarism?
Before anything else, we first need to define plagiarism. Plagiarism is the act of presenting another’s ideas or work as your own. It is considered a severe breach of ethics in academia and in a professional capacity. Moreover, for countries like Poland and India, plagiarism is a criminal offence that could warrant imprisonment.
One could say, plagiarism is much like counterfeiting or copyright infringement. Instead of just copying works of art, you’re stealing someone else’s ideas entirely.
When it comes to academia especially—you need to give credit where it’s due. After all, there are ways for a student to take inspiration from somewhere and give proper attribution without committing plagiarism. To illustrate that, let’s first look at some examples of plagiarism.
- Submitting another person’s work as your own
- Misattributing a quote
- Failing to give proper credit
- Use a reference without putting enough effort to create your own ideas
- Restructuring someone else’s work without proper citation
Plagiarism occurs when you don’t do your due diligence. Thankfully, it’s easy enough to avoid plagiarising work if you:
- Properly cite all of your sources
- Transform ideas enough to make them your own
Doing a proper reference check is important if you want to know how to avoid plagiarism. When sources are clearly labelled, and original thought is put into your work, then your submission has lower chances of being considered plagiarised.
With that out of the way, we can now discuss the different types of plagiarism.
Types of Plagiarism
There are several ways a student can commit plagiarism. In fact, there are five different kinds of plagiarism. Here’s a brief overview of the different types of plagiarism.
- Direct Plagiarism – Directly copying another’s work with no changes or source checking.
- Mosaic Plagiarism – Otherwise known as patchworking. This is when you combine ideas from different sources without proper citation.
- Paraphrasing Plagiarism – This involves changing the sentence structure while keeping the original idea without properly crediting the original work.
- Self-Plagiarism – This is the act of resubmitting your past work with the intention of passing it off as new material.
- Accidental Plagiarism – An unintentional form of plagiarism that happens when you forget to cite sources.
If you want a more in-depth look at the different types of plagiarism, you can read our previous article on the topic.
What Happens When You’re Accused of Plagiarism as a Student?
As mentioned earlier, plagiarism is a serious offence in academia. If students are caught plagiarising content, they could face dire consequences. Professors will make it a point to inform students about the repercussions of being labelled a plagiarist on the first day and in your syllabus—so there should be no surprise if you are caught.
Furthermore, each class’s syllabus typically enumerates the possible outcomes of plagiarising work. Based on the results of an investigation and the severity of the offence, a student might incur the following penalties:
- Failing the module or the class requirement
- Failing the class or semester
- Academic probation or suspension
- Expulsion from school or university
All in all, plagiarism doesn’t only waste your time, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. As such, it’s not to be taken lightly. You’re also facing the possibility of getting kicked out of school.
Yale, for instance, clearly states that they have a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism. Moreover, if you end up getting expelled, it can be difficult to get accepted elsewhere. Most schools will be reluctant to accept you if you have plagiarism on your record.
How to Avoid Plagiarism?
Now that you know about the gravity of plagiarism, how can you avoid it?
Honestly, it’s simple to avoid plagiarism. All you need to do is double-check your work before submission. Be sure that your references are in order, you’ve explained ideas using your own words, and you’re properly attributing quotations.
Here are some reminders to keep in mind when writing a paper:
- Cite sources – As mentioned throughout the article, the major reason a submission is labelled as plagiarised is because of improper citations. If all your references are listed, you have a lower chance of being accused of plagiarism.
- Use quotation marks – When you’re directly quoting someone, be sure to properly enclose the quote in quotation marks and cite the speaker properly. This goes the same for song lyrics, anecdotes, and personal interviews.
- Use words like “according to” or “said” – When you want to cite an idea from a source, preface the sentence with “according to.” As a bonus, you can use this to reach the required word count.
Of course, there are other ways to avoid plagiarism, but these are a few tips to keep your writing up to score. So, as long as you do your due diligence and give credit where it’s due, you probably won’t be accused of plagiarism.
Avoid Plagiarism with Flowcite
No student wants to be accused of plagiarism. Not only will you lose face with your peers, but you’ll also get serious consequences from the school board—making a future in academia difficult and nearly impossible.
To avoid plagiarism, take advantage of the library and other sources your university offers. Some universities also provide word processing application packs that come with plagiarism checkers and reference management tools. These tools focus on singling-out cases of copied text, so you can easily address the problem.
Some tools, like Flowcite, also help you flag any possible issues as well as manage your citations from the start. With Flowcite’s available resources, you can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to referencing and citation. Our integrated platform thoroughly reviews your work to ensure that it passes the highest standards.
Ready to improve your work? Sign up with Flowcite today!
Content Marketing Strategist
Brittany is a Content Marketing Strategist at Flowcite, and an outstanding academic writing expert. She holds a first-class Honours degree in Literae Humaniores from the University of Oxford and has been certified in Digital Marketing Analytics by the MIT Sloan School of Management.