How to avoid plagiarism! (part 1)

I am in my last stage of finishing my thesis and I was looking today for a good free on-line checker for plagiarism because I want to check if I had accidentally committed this. While I was searching for plagiarism checkers, I thought that it will be useful to make a post about it!

Plagiarism is a very common mistake among master, PhD students, and sometimes even researchers and academics. It is not always done on purpose but the penalty for plagiarism is the same either you did it on purpose or accidentally.

In the present post I discuss the three following topics concerning plagiarism:

  • What is plagiarism
  • How to avoid plagiarism
  • Find plagiarism in three steps

What is plagiarism?

In order to avoid plagiarism lets see what plagiarism is!  The simplest definition of Plagiarism I found on-line is the following:

Plagiarism is using the words or ideas of others and presenting them as your own” (source: Learning Centre of the University of New South Wales)

How to avoid plagiarism

The Learning Centre of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have a really good webpage on this topic. They give some tips on how to avoid plagiarism. The most interesting and useful tips are the following:

1. Learn how to incorporate the work of others into your own work

2. Use quotations correctly

3. Learn to make effective notes from sources

(If you want to check the whole list click here)

Ok! Now let’s see analytically what they say for each of the above tips! (Note: All that follows comes directly from their website)

[1.] Learn how to incorporate the work of others into your own work

1.1. Writing in your own words: Summarizing & Paraphrasing

You can integrate evidence/ source material into your assignments by summarizing and paraphrasing. Summaries and paraphrases offer alternatives to using direct quotations.

  • A summary is an overview of a source, condensing it to its most important ideas.
  • A paraphrase is usually a short section of text. It retains the meaning but uses different words.

Summaries or paraphrase in your own words and sentence patterns. Follow with a reference. However, just changing one or two words does not make a paraphrase; you must digest the ideas, understand them, and write them in your own words and phrasing.

1.2. Why writing in ‘your own words’ is important

Expressing information or ideas in your own words (by paraphrasing or summarizing) demonstrates that you have understood, absorbed, and interpreted information. It also helps you to develop your writing style. If your work is only made up from copied material you are likely to be penalized by your lecturers.

[2.] Use quotations correctly

For example, you can write, “According to White” followed by a quotation from White or your paraphrase or summary of White’s ideas.

[3.] Learn to make effective notes from sources

3.1. When you take notes from a source of information, use the split-page method

Develop a system to distinguish between what you have copied directly from a source, what you have noted in your own words, and your own comments about the material.

When you take notes from a source of information, use the split-page method.

Divide your page into 3 columns.

1st: column: Write the notes from a source

2nd column: Record the page number(s)

3rd column: write your comments, questions or ideas about the information.

This allows you to distinguish between your ideas and the author’s. Don’t forget! Before you begin to take notes, record the bibliographic information for the source at the top of the page.

3.2. When taking notes from a source, try to write in your own words

Cover the original source, then relying on your memory, write a summary or paraphrase. Check your version with the original for accuracy and any phrases you may have accidentally reproduced. Put any unique words or phrases that you can1Ï4t change into quotation marks. If you copy down the exact words from a source, make sure they are between quotation marks.

3.3. Use ‘in-text’ referencing in your notes

During note-taking, develop the habit of concluding each paragraph with the author’s name and the page number between brackets. This will help you reference the information when you use it in an assignment.

Find plagiarism in the following example!

I like very much the use of examples when giving or accepting a tip or advice, because it makes more visual and easier to understand.

In order to get a better idea of what plagiarism is and how you can avoid it, you can check the paper: Anderson, I. (2009) Avoiding plagiarism in academic writing. Nursing Standard. 23(18): 35-37.

In page 37, the author provides a table with one paragraph of original text and then gives 3 examples in which you must answer whether they are plagiarism or not.

Original text (Anderson 2007):

“There is debate about how often Doppler assessment should be carried out. Guidelines currently recommend every three months post-ulcer healing (Royal College of Nursing (RCN) 2006); however, this is burdensome and probably not necessary for many patients (Pankhurst 2004). Therefore, practitioners should refer to local guidelines.”

Example 1 – is this plagiarism?

There is debate about how often Doppler assessment should be carried out. Guidelines currently recommend every three months post-ulcer healing (RCN 2006); however, this is burdensome and probably not necessary for many patients (Pankhurst 2004). Therefore, practitioners should refer to local guidelines.

Answer: this is plagiarism. It gives the impression that these are the words of the writer. In addition, the writer is also claiming to have read the papers cited in the text. To correct this, the text should be put in quotation marks and the reference given with the page number of the original. However, directly quoting does not demonstrate understanding.

Example 2 – is this plagiarism?

There is discussion about how often Doppler assessment should be done. Guidelines currently recommend every three months post-ulcer healing (RCN 2006); however, this is probably not necessary for many patients (Pankhurst 2004). Therefore, practitioners should refer to local guidelines.

Answer: this is plagiarism. It is not enough to just change some of the words; the original source of the writing should be cited. This is an example of poor writing technique. The writer is repeating what was written originally and is not demonstrating any understanding of the text or how the ideas should be applied to practice.

Example 3 – is this plagiarism?

Practitioners may find Doppler assessment every three months difficult to achieve and the decision whether or not to do this may depend on the needs of the patient and local guidance (Anderson 2007).

Answer: this is not plagiarism. The writer has taken an idea and put it into his or her own words, demonstrating understanding of the risk in assessment and a good referencing technique.

 

Hope I helped! In a next post I will present some free on-line plagiarism checkers!

But how about you?  Do you have any advices on how to avoid plagiarism?

Do you have a free on-line plagiarism checker that you use and recommend it?

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