Avoiding Plagiarism

Good intentions are not always good enough for avoiding plagiarism. Even if we mean well, we may engage in plagiarism, from carelessness or misunderstanding.  Careless plagiarism sometimes occurs if, while writing our paper, we include information we have cut and pasted from an internet source—using it as “placeholder,” intending to come back later and paraphrase it.  The best way to avoid this is to keep all material we have cut and pasted from the internet out of our draft in the first place and never cut and paste material from the internet—for our notes for example—without also including the source link with it.

Unintentional plagiarism may occur if our good-faith effort to paraphrase source material falls short.  It is important to recognize that changing a word or two, deleting a phrase, or combining several phrases from different parts of a work is not a successful paraphrase for we are still relying primarily on someone else’s wording. (For guidance on how to paraphrase and the difference between successful and unsuccessful paraphrases, the material in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s “The Writer’s Handbook” is very helpful http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/QuotingSources.html ) We also need to keep in mind that when we have adequately paraphrased a source, we still need to credit the author for their original insights.

Last revised on January 25, 2018.