How to Avoid Plagiarism? Tips and Advice for Academics

by Divya Sreekumar
how to avoid plagiarism

Plagiarism is an important concept in writing and concerns all authors who publish any kind of document. So, what is plagiarism? Presenting other people’s work as your own without formally giving due credit through citations or acknowledgements is called plagiarism. One of the biggest mistakes that authors may make is to include sentences verbatim from other sources or even pass off someone else’s writing as their own without appropriate citation. While most authors may know how to avoid plagiarism, some may not be completely aware of this concept. This article aims to answer your questions about how and why authors should avoid plagiarism. 

The following activities can be considered plagiarism1

  • Quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing information from a source without citing it 
  • Using ideas or methods from a source without citing it 
  • Using words verbatim from a source and also citing it, but not enclosing the text in quotation marks or an indented block 
  • Close paraphrasing without citing the source 

Table of Contents

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of “stealing and passing off the ideas or words of another as one’s own,” or “using another’s production without crediting the source.”2 According to the University of Oxford,3 all published and unpublished work, whether electronic or printed, as well as text generated wholly or in part by artificial intelligence can be plagiarized. Re-using your own work without proper citation is also considered plagiarism. 

In addition to text, plagiarism can also involve other media such as software program codes, illustrations, graphics, and artwork. The only source that can be used freely without citation is information in the public domain or common knowledge such as well-known facts.  

Different forms of plagiarism

Some different forms of plagiarism are listed below.3 

  • Verbatim quotation without clear acknowledgement 

Readers should be able to distinguish between the author’s own words and that from another source. To ensure this, direct quotations should be cited and enclosed within quotation marks, indented as block text, or italicized. 

  • Cutting and pasting from the Internet without clear acknowledgement 

To avoid plagiarism, information found on the Internet should be verified from other reliable sources and only trustworthy websites, such as government websites, should be referred to and used with clear citation. 

  • Paraphrasing without proper acknowledgement 

Paraphrasing means rewriting text using different words although the meaning remains the same. Even if the words are different, the meaning or idea, if sourced from another work, should be duly cited. Close paraphrasing occurs when only very few words are revised from the original. Here’s an example:4 


Wild cattle are probably the longest-running example in Europe of the conservation in semi-captivity of an otherwise extinct subspecies. They owe their survival to being a medieval status symbol; how they came to be such is unknown. 

Plagiarized version 

There are a number of herds of so-called ‘wild cattle’ in Britain. Their survival is due to their being a medieval status symbol, although it is unknown how they came to be such, and is one of the longest running examples of the conservation in semi-captivity in Europe of an otherwise extinct subspecies. 

Acceptable revision 

There are a number of herds of so-called ‘wild cattle’ in country parks in Britain. In his ‘History of the Countryside’, Oliver Rackham suggests that these herds are ‘probably the longest-running example in Europe of the conservation in semi-captivity of an otherwise extinct subspecies’ and attributes the cattle’s survival to the fact that they were ‘a medieval status symbol’.1 

1Oliver Rackham, The History of the Countryside (London: Phoenix, 2000), p. 39. 

  • Collusion 

This includes unauthorized collaborations among students and failure to acknowledge assistance received while working in groups. You should be clear about the extent of collaboration allowed. 

  • Inaccurate citation 

Citations must be accurate, and only those sources that have actually been referred to should be mentioned. 

  • Auto-plagiarism 

Many universities prohibit concurrent submission of identical documents, that is, submitting work that has already been submitted for a different course, subject, university, etc. 

What is plagiarism in research?

Plagiarism in research could take many forms like copying another author’s work, strategy, methods, hypotheses, formulae, in addition to basic text. A plagiarism charge can have adverse effects on authors’ careers and also the reputation of universities and institutions with which they are affiliated. If plagiarism is discovered after an article is published in a journal, then that paper would need to be retracted and this can significantly affect any future publishing prospects of authors. Retractions negate the credibility or validity of any research, affecting not just the authors and institutions but also other researchers who may have referred to this source for their own research.  

Universities have clear definitions and strict policies on how to avoid plagiarism; two examples are given below. 

Stanford University 

“For purposes of the Stanford University Honor Code, plagiarism is defined as the use, without giving reasonable and appropriate credit to or acknowledging the author or source, of another person’s original work, whether such work is made up of code, formulas, ideas, language, research, strategies, writing or other form(s). Moreover, verbatim text from another source must always be put in (or within) quotation marks.”5 

Carnegie Mellon University 

“Plagiarism is defined as the use of work or concepts contributed by other individuals without proper attribution or citation. Unique ideas or materials taken from another source for either written or oral use must be fully acknowledged in academic work to be graded. Examples of sources expected to be referenced include but are not limited to: 

  • Text, either written or spoken, quoted directly or paraphrased 
  • Graphic elements 
  • Passages of music, existing either as sound or as notation 
  • Mathematical proofs 
  • Scientific data 
  • Concepts or material derived from the work, published or unpublished, of another person”6 

Why should you avoid plagiarism?

You should avoid plagiarism for the following reasons7

  • to ensure academic integrity  
  • to ensure ethical practices in research 
  • to give credit to authors whose work you’re referring to because it is a form of respecting someone’s efforts and work  
  • to avoid hampering your own career and reputation and that of the affiliated institution 

An important way to avoid plagiarism is to cite sources appropriately. Proper citations are similar to roadmaps for future researchers who will refer to your work for their own research. These roadmaps help researchers in following your research trail on the same subject so that they don’t waste time and effort by repeating work that has already been done.  

Ways to avoid plagiarism in research

Listed below are a few ways to avoid plagiarism.7 

  1. Plan: Make a list of the information you need and allocate sufficient time for both research and writing. If you spend most of your time on research, you may not have enough time for writing and may eventually copy text verbatim. 
  1. Cite accurately from reliable sources: Refer to only reliable sources and track them by using reference management software such as Zotero, Mendeley, and EndNote to help you organize all your citations. One of the most critical ways to avoid plagiarism is to add citations to the correct place in the text using specific rules, if applicable. 
  1. Paraphrase and rewrite: Don’t cut and paste text from sources into your document. Use your own words to rephrase sentences ensuring that you retain the intended meaning. 
  1. Use exact words cautiously: Use words verbatim only if absolutely necessary and always highlight such text and cite the source. 

Tips to avoid plagiarism

Here are some detailed tips to help you avoid plagiarism.8,9 

  1. Learn the principles of good writing by attending related courses, seminars, etc. 
  1. Don’t modify the content in a source to suit your objectives. 
  1. Use a signal phrase, such as “According to [source],” at the beginning of sentences or paragraphs to clarify that you’re referring to another source. 
  1. Avoid changing technical, subject-specific, or coined terms in the source text. Highlight such terms by using quotation marks or italics. 
  1. Use examples to learn how to paraphrase source text accurately. Read the source text, understand what it’s conveying, and then rewrite it in your own words.  
  1. Quote only as much is needed from the source. Don’t quote the entire paragraph if only one sentence is sufficient. To shorten quoted text, use ellipses (…) to indicate omitted text. 
  1. Learn how to cite sources properly. Choose a specific referencing style followed in your field and familiarize yourself with it. 
  1. Learn how to detect plagiarism. After paraphrasing an example text, identify words in your text that are similar to those in the source. See if these words could be replaced with others without changing the original meaning. 
  1. Ensure that all the information that is not otherwise “common knowledge” is cited. Do note that something that is common knowledge to you may not be as common to others. 
  1. Obtain permission from authors when using significant portions of their work. 
  1. Proofread your work objectively to ensure that readers can distinguish between your own words or ideas and those from other sources. 
  1. Avoid accidental plagiarism by using a good plagiarism checker to identify any instances you may have missed. 

How to prevent plagiarism? A checklist

Here’s a short checklist you can use after finalizing your document to help you prevent plagiarism. Make sure you have: 

  • Not copied text verbatim. 
  • Paraphrased appropriately in own language instead of just using synonyms. 
  • Enclosed exact words within quotation marks, indented as a block, or italicized. 
  • Used appropriate subject-specific citation style guide and followed all the formatting rules. 
  • Included in-text citations wherever required. 
  • Included all text citations in the reference list or bibliography as well. 
  • Neither reused own previously submitted paper nor submitted papers to different institutions concurrently. 

Frequently asked questions 

1. How can I detect plagiarism? 

Several online plagiarism checkers are available to check for text duplication, such as the Paperpal plagiarism checker or iThenticate by Turnitin. Such tools are usually used by universities, journals, and other publishers to ensure that all submissions are original and to prevent any copyright issues later.10 

2. Are plagiarism checkers safe and accurate?11 

Plagiarism checkers are important because they quickly accomplish what would otherwise take several hours to complete manually. These plagiarism checkers use algorithms to compare text with an extensive database including journal articles, websites, etc.

The scale at which these checkers function is also quite high because they scan billions of sources of text and data to identify a match between what you’ve written and the sources they’re trained to parse. However, the accuracy of these checkers may not be 100% because of false positives (flagging original content as plagiarized) and false negatives (failing to detect plagiarized content).

The accuracy of plagiarism checkers depends on factors such as database size, algorithm quality, text comparison methodology, etc. Users should manually check flagged content to ensure accuracy. 

3. How can students avoid plagiarism? 

Here are a few best practices and ways to avoid plagiarism for students:10 

Take sufficient time to complete your work and don’t procrastinate. 
Avoid simply copy pasting text from sources. Understand the whole concept and write in your own words. Learn how to paraphrase and how to cite accurately. 
Use reliable and credible sources and acknowledge them. 
Organize your notes; create a separate list of citations you’re using as you work. 
Avoid simultaneously submitting the same article for different courses, universities, journals, etc. 
Use a trusted plagiarism checker to detect any accidental or self-plagiarism. 

4. What is mosaic plagiarism? How is it different from paraphrasing? 

Mosaic or patchwork plagiarism refers to combining text from various sources into your own work without proper acknowledgement or citation. While paraphrasing involves rewriting text from a single source, mosaic plagiarism involves copying text from multiple sources. 

Here’s an example of mosaic plagiarism:12 

Source 1 (Johnson, 2018): 
“Adolescents today are facing a unique challenge that previous generations did not experience. The increasing usage of social media platforms has raised concerns about its impact on their mental well-being. Recent studies have indicated a correlation between the time spent on social media and the overall well-being of adolescents.” 

Source 2 (Miller, 2019): 
“The relationship between screen time and mental health among young people has been investigated extensively. It has been found that excessive screen time, especially on social media platforms, can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.” 

Plagiarized text 
Teenagers today face unique challenges unknown to previous generations. The increasing use of social media platforms has prompted concerns about their impact on youth wellbeing, leading to extensive investigation of the impact of screen time on mental health. Studies have shown a link between excessive screen time and mental health, with youth affected by feelings of anxiety and depression. 

To conclude, to avoid plagiarism authors should use information from sources carefully and always cite or acknowledge accurately. We hope this article has given you an insight into what constitutes plagiarism and that the suggested tips will help you avoid plagiarism in research. 


  1. Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 9th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2018, p. 81-84. 
  1. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. Last accessed February 13, 2024. 
  1. Plagiarism. University of Oxford website. Accessed February 13, 2024. 
  1. A guide to referencing your work. University of Bristol website. Accessed February 17, 2024. 
  1. What is plagiarism? Stanford University website. Accessed February 16, 2024. 
  1. Academic integrity. Carnegie Mellon University website. Accessed February 15, 2024. 
  1. How to avoid plagiarism. Harvard University website. Accessed February 17, 2024. 
  1. Best practices to avoid plagiarism. Purdue University website. Accessed February 21, 2024. 
  1. Tips on avoiding plagiarism. Northern Illinois University website. Accessed February 16, 2024. 
  1. Kumar PM, Priya NS, Musalaiah S, Nagasree M. Knowing and avoiding plagiarism during scientific writing. Ann Med Health Sci Res. 2014 Sep;4(Suppl 3):S193-8. doi: 10.4103/2141-9248.141957. PMID: 25364588. Accessed February 15, 2024. 
  1. The accuracy of online plagiarism checkers: Are they up to the task? Medium. Published February 7, 2024. Accessed February 21, 2024. 
  1. What is mosaic plagiarism? Examples, types, and how to avoid it. Published December 12, 2023. Accessed February 22, 2024. 

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