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What is plagiarism? How can you avoid plagiarism? 4 Steps to Take

Plagiarism is defined as taking someone else’s ideas and passing them off as your own.

In writing, it’s considered literary theft if proper credit is not given to the original author!

While this form of dishonesty is not usually punished by law, it is highly frowned upon and harshly penalized in the world of academia. To steer clear of plagiarism, here are four steps to follow:

Cite sources throughout the text

If you learn something while reading or doing research and then want to include that information in your writing, you must cite the existing work. This is the main idea behind giving credit to other writers.

To do this, an in-text citation goes right after the sentence, and then a full reference is added at the end of the paper.

Paraphrase, summarize & reword

Rather than copying the original author’s exact words, it is often advisable to paraphrase or summarize their idea using your own thoughts.

If you can do this, it is also a great indicator that you truly understand the subject/material. Try to rework the phrasing and put your own spin on it!
(Note: Citations are still required if the ideas stem from an outside source)

Use quotation marks for direct quotes

When citing another writer word for word, three important bits of information are needed: their surname, the year of publication, and page number (if applicable).

Place these three items into parentheses in that same order, put the citation after the quote but before the period, and then remember to close off the actual quote with quotation marks.

Keep track & build a reference list

The reference list (also known as a works cited page or bibliography) goes at the end of the paper, and it shows all the sources used throughout the text. To keep track of each source, you can note them down as you go or enter the details into a bibliography builder like Cite This For Me.


Details typically needed:

  • Author’s name,
  • year of publication,
  • title of work,
  • publisher,
  • URL or page number.


Lastly, make sure to check with your instructor about which citation style (like APA, MLA, etc.) they expect to be followed!

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