In order to avoid plagiarism, you should be familiar with certain rules of proper academic writing and know how to apply them. Your instructor is the one who is primarily responsible for familiarizing you with them, but the essentials are briefly explained below. 1
Generally speaking, every academic paper is based on intellectual foundations laid by others. If you are writing about a topic, you need to be familiar with the current research in that field and be able to explain it in writing using your own words. Taking the knowledge you’ve acquired, you will compose your own work, formulate your own theses, etc. While doing this, however, you are required to cite all the sources you’ve consulted and marked all the excerpts you’ve used as citations.
A fundamental prerequisite for avoiding plagiarism is correct citation. All passages containing other people’s ideas must be marked with source citations. You can find a detailed description of the citation process under Citation Techniques.
If you wish to ensure that all sources have been correctly cited, you can use an automated program for plagiarism detection. With the help of professional analytic tools, sources and citations you’ve overlooked will be highlighted directly within the text, allowing you to fix mistakes right away and avoid plagiarism from the start.
Note: Even the mere suspicion of plagiarism can land you in hot water, so be sure to hand in a well-documented paper to start with!
Upholding Academic Standards
“Several times during the course of your studies, you will be required to write an academic paper. The higher your level of study, the greater the complexity of the work as well as the academic rigor expected.” 2
Before beginning to research your paper, you should know what sort of paper it needs to be, and what the requirements for it are. Various types of academic writing exist depending on your level of education:
The introduction to academic writing begins early on in the educational process with, for example, the writing of a theme paper. Later, at the university level, you hone your skills by composing term papers and completing research projects. Toward the end of your studies, there is the bachelor’s or master’s thesis. Higher forms of academic writing, such as doctoral and postdoctoral dissertations, are extremely demanding. 3
Note: The more difficult and demanding the academic paper, the stricter the requirements and the graver the consequences for plagiarism or suspicion of same.
First, you have to find a topic and define the problem. Then comes the quest for source material and the evaluation of those sources, which need to be checked for reliability and accuracy. Next, you should write an outline of the paper, and only after that should you begin writing the first draft. When you are finished, it’s time to proofread the paper and double-check your source citations for accuracy 4 (see Citation Techniques)
Note: Many educational institutions use automated plagiarism detection programs, so be sure and double-check the accuracy of your sources and citations before handing in the paper!
Your Right to Instruction
If you have not been taught—or sufficiently taught—how to write an academic paper correctly, you have the right to demand that such instruction be made available to you.
Raise the subject with your instructor. Let him/her know where you need help. Teachers and professors are generally very willing to offer additional assistance.
If for some reason they still fail do so, you have on top of that the right to take your complaint to the next higher level of authority.