How to avoid plagiarism

In any type of academic paper, it is critical not to plagiarize in your work. Otherwise, you risk failing your academic paper, or even being suspended from your academic institution. So avoiding plagiarism is very important in the academic context. 

Read our how-to guide to learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it by citing sources correctly.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is when you take someone else’s words or ideas without recognizing or citing (in APA & MLA) their work. This term applies to ideas, words, and unique structures found anywhere—in a book, on a website, or in an email.

In other words, when you take others’ ideas for your paper, you must recognize the source and give a reference. It tells your reader where you got this information. If not, you’re guilty of plagiarism! 

When writing an academic paper,

The basic act of copying and pasting may seem innocent in our tech-savvy world, but it has severe repercussions in academic and professional contexts. You must do your best to avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism has important consequences, so make sure to follow these steps for any type of paper you write.

Step 1: Keep a list of sources you used

One of the reasons why students commit plagiarism is that they forget where an idea came from and present it as their own unintentionally. 

So keeping a note of sources to use is a smart idea. When you outline your essay, you’ll come across many sources. Simply list them somewhere on your PC or notebook. 

During writing or even when you finish, go back to your writing to make sure that you’ve correctly referenced the outside information. So the key takeaway of this step is: 


Step 2: Use quotations or paraphrase!

Suppose you intend to write an idea or a piece of information from another source during your writing process. In that case, you must either quote the original text paraphrase.

Using quotations

Copying a piece of text word by word is known as quotation. So quotations must be written exactly as they appear in the source.

To show that the words aren’t your own, use quotation marks around the text. And make sure to include a source citation so that readers can see where the quote came from.​

Let’s have a look at the quotation example below:

Quotation example

The ancient Greeks never felt the necessity to justify battles fought outside the city state’s boundaries. In her book On Revolution, Hannah Arendt argues that “…we must turn to Roman antiquity to find the first justification of war, together with the first notion that there are just and unjust wars” (12). Quotation example However, the Roman view of a fair war differs significantly from current notions.

Paraphrase when necessary

Presenting thoughts and facts in your own words while recognizing where they come from is known as paraphrasing. You can use a paraphrasing tool for this.

In other words, you’re still making use of outside information but writing this information with your own words. 

Let’s have a look at paraphrasing example below. 

Paraphrasing example

Original Text Paraphrased Version

"The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was established on 16 November 1945."

UNESCO, founded in 1945, is an international organization dedicated to promoting education, science, and culture (UNESCO, 2019).

When to use quotation or paraphrasing

You should use quotation when…

You should paraphrase if…

Step 3: Cite your sources

Now that you’ve used quotes or paraphrases in your writing, it’s time to cite them, either in APA or MLA, or any other format you’re assigned to.  

A citation is imply adding reference to the end of the paraphrased or quoted sentence. Let’s have a look at below examples to see citation examples. 

Citation examples (APA and MLA)

According to Smith (2019), APA citation example climate change is a pressing global issue.

In a study by Johnson et al. (2020), APA citation example it was found that exercise can improve mental health.

The study found that "women who consumed more than three cups of coffee per day had a 21% higher risk of cardiovascular disease" (Jones et al. 24). MLA citation example

The report suggests that "the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace may lead to significant job displacement" ("AI in the Workplace" par. 4). MLA citation example

There are several citation styles, each with its own set of criteria for citing. APA, MLA, and Chicago Style are among the most popular. The most crucial aspect is to use the same style throughout the content.

Citation best practices

Step 4: Use a plagiarism checker tool

So you’ve kept a list of the sources, paraphrased or used quotations, and finally added in-text citations. Before handing out your paper, it’s a good idea to check whether it’s still plagiarized or if you’ve missed out something to reference. 

You can check how much of your work is plagiarized using a variety of plagiarism detection websites such as EasyBib, or Grammarly.  

Plagiarism checkers are used by most institutions to identify plagiarism in student papers. This technology analyzes your work and compares it to a large database of publications and websites, highlighting parts that are too similar to other sources.

Key takeaways for avoiding plagiarism

These tips can help you prevent plagiarism in your essay or research paper. Learning how to avoid plagiarism, in addition to being more aware of what causes plagiarism, requires regular practice. So, keep working.

Picture of Ibrahim Akturk
Ibrahim Akturk
Content editor at Tamara Research. Translation major, huge coffee and baking nerd. Addicted to good music and great articles.