Plagiarism and How it can be Avoided

When you look up a topic on the internet, a lot of material for that topic comes up. But if you observe closely, no two materials written by different people on that topic or idea are alike because; two people can never have the same representation of the same idea.

As writers, whether for academia, poetry, articles, speeches, or any form of writing, originality is as important as the content of your work.

I dare say, more important!

Some writers, especially in the early stages of their writing career lack originality. This may be as a result of improper research on the idea they are writing on or due to ignorance and laziness on their own part.
Writers that lack originality always find themselves unwilling victims of plagiarism. It is important for every writer to avoid plagiarism because it can damage your reputation and bring your career as a writer, to an end.

I’m sure you wouldn’t want that.

Every writer ought to know what plagiarism is and how serious of an offense it is. But for the sake of clarity and to serve as a reminder, I will explain to you what plagiarism is and the forms of plagiarisms that exist before going ahead to tell you how it can be avoided.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of lifting someone’s idea with or without the person’s consent and presenting it without any form of acknowledgement. It can also be referred to as an act of literary theft and fraud.

Plagiarism is considered a breach of journalistic ethics and academic dishonesty. It is a punishable offense which attracts; penalties, including suspension that may lead to expulsion from school or work, fines from courts, and in very serious cases, imprisonment.

It is important to know that unless an idea is common knowledge, you cannot include it in your writing without acknowledging or citing the source.

Forms of plagiarism

There are a good number of plagiarisms that exist, simple forms which are easily detected such as; copying a literary work word for word, and complex forms, which may not be easily detected or considered as not being plagiarism by “amateurs”. Both simple and complex forms of plagiarism attract consequences. The forms of plagiarism are;

  • Direct plagiarism: This is the most common form of plagiarism. It is an act of copying someone’s work word for word, without acknowledgement. If you have to use the exact words from someone’s work, you need to put it in quotation mark and cite the source. It is also direct plagiarism to lift and include a paragraph from someone’s work, pay someone to write an essay, article or journal, thereafter, submitting it as your own work without any reference or acknowledgement.
  • Citation plagiarism: It is when your citations are missing, or when your sources are cited incorrectly. The most common example of this form of plagiarism is when you do not acknowledge a source because you think that particular idea is common knowledge; a lot of writers are guilty of this. One major cause of citation plagiarism is disorganized or improper research processes.
  • Paraphrased plagiarism: This form of plagiarism happens when you make few changes (e.g using a paraphrasing tool online); involving sentence structure or arrangement, to someone’s work and pass it off as your own.
  • Mosaic plagiarism: This is a combination of direct and paraphrased plagiarism. This happens when your work has word for word and paraphrased phrases, sentences or paragraphs without the use of quotation marks. Copying and pasting texts or paragraphs from different sources and piecing it together to form your work is also mosaic plagiarism.
  • Image plagiarism: This involves including an image that was not captured by you in your work without permission and proper citation. For example, using the book cover of a novel in your literary work without citation.
  • Self plagiarism: Always very unintentional, is an act of lifting an idea from your previous work into your new work without citation.
  • Non-existence citation or source: It is very improper for you to give a “made-up” citation to an idea or statement because you could not find the actual citations. This is very misleading to your readers, as they would assume your statement is supported by a source. You should avoid doing this.

How to avoid all types of plagiarism

If you are not sure as to whether your work contains plagiarism or not, you can perform a plagiarism test yourself by employing the use of plagiarism checker tools.

A plagiarism tool is software programmed to locate instances of plagiarism within a document or work. These checkers use different ways to detect the slightest occurrence of plagiarism in a work. Some use live web search together with open-access databases and personal libraries of files to check your texts for similarities with others.

Plagiarism checkers tell you whether or not your work has a duplicate content, check and highlights paragraphs that need citation and also go ahead to give you the sources that should be cited for that paragraph.

Plagiarism checkers also serve as paraphrasing tools, helping you restructure sentences, correct grammatical errors, and tone.

Since plagiarism checkers are able to access web pages and academic books, once you run your work through it, you will get a plagiarism alert on any sentence or phrase that matches with some online document or literary work. You will also get an instant report on the amount of writing and grammatical errors found in your work and how original your work is. Citation, grammatical and writing errors are immediately corrected by the checker. The corrections introduced to your work by the checker make your work plagiarism free. A popular example of a plagiarism checker is Turnitin.

Plagiarism is so serious an offense that you may end up imprisoned. Well, after your writing career has been dragged through the mud first. So, it is very important that writers avoid plagiarism at all cost. You may decide to employ human resources to help detect plagiarism but, know that this is not as effective as plagiarism checkers especially when it comes to detecting citation errors.

Remember, ORIGINALITY as a writer is very important. This is what gives you an identity different from all other writers that exist.