We often get questions from students worried about accidental plagiarism. This happens when someone forgets to cite sources clearly in their work, especially when paraphrasing or directly quoting other people.
However, it’s vital to avoid this! Failing to cite everything properly can get you into a lot of trouble. Follow the tips below to make sure you are not plagiarising sources by mistake!
1. Always Cite Your Sources
Have you added a citation every time you draw upon someone else’s ideas or work? Go through and check!
Furthermore, make sure that every source cited in your essay is included in the reference list. If you fail to do this, your in-text citations won’t make sense.
2. Use Your Style Guide
Do your citations follow your university’s referencing guidelines? If you’re not sure, check your style guide or university website for guidance.
This is important because different referencing systems, such as Harvard, MLA and APA, use different rules for how to cite sources.
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3. Never ‘Borrow’!
Don’t be tempted to ‘borrow’ a well-written paragraph or two. Your lecturer will know you have copied, as your writing style will change in these sections. (It becomes even easier to spot if you leave in the [Citation Needed] tags from the Wikipedia article you were reading.)
If you find someone’s work inspiring, it’s fine to model your style on theirs. However, you must never use someone else’s words without acknowledging them!
4. Add Your Own Views
Developing your own view is essential in academic writing. This is because your marker isn’t just interested in how much you have read; they also want to know you can criticise and analyse the work of other thinkers.
Don’t worry if you don’t agree with the sources you read. The key thing is to engage with them and articulate why you don’t agree with what you have read.
Engaging critically with existing research like this shows that you are not simply copying somebody else’s ideas. As such, expressing your own ideas can help to show you’re not plagiarising anyone else’s work.