In school, you are cautioned to avoid plagiarism when writing papers. Most colleges have strict policies to punish academic dishonesty, especially plagiarism.
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Here's one definition of plagiarism: "Using or copying another person's work without acknowledgment and with the intention of passing it off as one's own."
Odds are, you have to some degree at some time in your life.
Did you ever copy directly out of the encyclopedia for a report in grade school?
Did you "borrow" a few paragraphs from a source?
Maybe you did. Maybe you didn't. Don't do it in college or as a professional writer.
Simply put, plagiarism is theft. It is also considered cheating by colleges and universities. The consequences are swift and severe. And you will get caught. Especially in this age of automated plagiarism checkers.
Sometimes it seems impossible to avoid plagiarism. It's not.
If you have used, word for word, more than a sentence from another person's work without giving credit, consider it plagiarism. Go back, find your source and give proper credit.
In fact, it is better to give credit for each and every bit you use from other sources than to risk being expelled or fired.
We could get into "fair use" and other particulars of copyright law, but your best bet is always to give credit. Why risk the hassle of proving "fair use?" It's not worth it.
With the internet, you can also using free plagiarism checking services that will scan your paper for problem quotes or phrases and alert you.
To get your free list of these services, see below.
Yes, you can avoid copying another's work. You have a number of options to help you do this.
1. Write everything only in your own words.
Read a lot on your chosen topic, but don't copy any of the material. Instead, write your own version of the information from memory. Then go back and check your facts, but not to copy the material.
2. Quote everything you use.
In other words, cite it. Reference it in the bibliography, in footnotes, or by in text citation. The point is to make sure you credit your source for the information.
3. Ask a professor for help.
If you are worried that you may be copying material inadvertently, ask your professor or advisor to help you avoid plagiarism. They are there to teach you, so learn from them. If your own professor is unapproachable for whatever reason, find another who will assist you.
College, if you've chosen to attend, is vital to your future successes. It's also expensive. Don't jeopardize it by stealing another's work and claiming it as your own.
Same goes if you are a professional writer. You have standards to uphold. Your reputation will be shaped by the quality and ethical standards of your work.
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