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  • Tausif Mulla

How to avoid plagiarism in academia

What is academic plagiarism?

Plagiarism is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the practice of using another person's words, ideas, or another original creative expression without giving credit to the source.”

In other words, academic plagiarism is the act of using other people's work or ideas as one's own without giving credit. It can be done in several ways, including paraphrasing, using direct quotes or unattributed quotations, and presenting someone else's work as an original idea.

To avoid plagiarizing, it's important to ensure the correct use of evidence and sources in your academic thesis/paper. By incorporating these properly, you can build upon the work of others and appreciate their contributions.

Why academic plagiarism is a growing problem?

The International Journal of Academic Integrity (IJAI) reported in its 2017 issue that there was an "increase in the rate of academic misconduct," which includes plagiarism. Recent research shows that academic plagiarism is a growing problem, with up to half of college students admitting to committing some form of plagiarism. In order to combat this growing problem, institutions need to implement preventative policies and educational campaigns that educate students on the importance of proper citation as well as how not properly citing can cause future problems.

Photo by Charlotte May from Pexels

These are the four steps you can follow to avoid plagiarism:

1. Make a note of your research sources.

Research is an important part of any project and it's sometimes difficult to keep track of all the sources you consult. Students should be careful to record the source of information for each piece of information they are using in their research and papers. One way that students commit plagiarism is by simply forgetting where an idea came from. Here are some ways students can avoid this mistake:

  • Keep a running list of the sources you are using in your paper

  • If you find yourself forgetting where a source was originally found, write it down and make a note in the list

  • If you are not sure whether something constitutes plagiarism, ask an adviser or professor

Avoid this pitfall by keeping your notes organized and compiling a list of citations as you go. Keep track of every source you consult, including books, journal articles, magazines, and websites. Furthermore, you can easily go back and check where you found a phrase, fact, or idea that you want to use in your paper.

2. Use your sources to summarize or quote (and add your own perspective).

If you want to share an idea or a bit of information from a source, you'll either have to paraphrase it or quote from the original text.

Paraphrase your content

  • Do not copy-paste text from the source, but restate the idea in your own words.

  • Make sure you understand the idea(s) of the reference source well before paraphrasing.

  • To avoid plagiarism, you should make sure your text doesn't sound too similar to the original.

  • You can find good paraphrasing examples here.


Original text: New platforms like Over the top have resulted from consumers' growing desire for adapted content.

Paraphrased: The growing urge of the consumer to emphasize more on adapted content has given birth to new platforms like Over the top (Malewar, 2020, pg 89).

Use Quotations

When you quote another paper, it is important that you put quotation marks around the text. It is also imperative that you follow the quotations exactly as they appear in the original paper. You should not use different punctuation or change any words in the original sentence.

Example: Malewar (2020) defines facilitating conditions as, “availability of the technical infrastructure and support for using OTT video streaming platforms” (pg 93).

It is appropriate to use quotes when:

  • A definition introduced by the original author is used by you

  • The original text cannot be rephrased without losing its meaning

  • Ensure that the author's words are maintained in their authority and style

When it comes to writing, paraphrasing is a controversial topic. Many people tend to believe that quoting is the universal best practice, but there are also those who believe that paraphrasing is an equally effective way of presenting the information. This debate has been going on for decades. In actuality, both strategies have their own ups and downs.

3. Provide a citation in-text and reference list for the original author.

Whenever you quote or paraphrase someone else's work, you have to cite their work within the text. It often also includes where the published work was published and a page number. Full citations help your readers find the sources you used in your paper, while in-text citations (such as for quotes) are required by style guidelines. There are many different styles of citations, and each has its own rules about how to use them consistently throughout a paper. It is important to apply one reference style consistently within your work.

Harvard Reference Style example

In-text citation: One of the reasons for this growth is the increase in high-speed internet penetration and mobile consumption that has led to the emergence of new business models (KPMG, 2019).

Reference list: KPMG (2019). India’s Digital Future. [online] KPMG, KPMG, p.18. Available at: [Accessed Oct. 2019].

4. Before you submit, run a plagiarism checker.

There are a lot of ways to prevent plagiarizing, including using plagiarism checkers. These scanners scan your work and compare it against databases of published materials to find out if there are any similarities between what you're writing and something that you didn't write yourself. This tool provides an easy way to find any places where you may have missed a citation, left out quotation marks, or included a paraphrase too close to the original text. After fixing any potential plagiarism mistakes, your essay will be in perfect shape.

If you don’t have an access to any paid plagiarism software, you may refer to this post by Scribbr where they curated a list of free plagiarism tools.

Concluding thoughts on how to avoid plagiarism

As discussed above, plagiarism is not just a problem in academia, but it is also a problem in other fields such as journalism. In order to avoid plagiarism, it is important to understand that you are not just copying someone else's work; you are also stealing their knowledge and experience, which is not fair. So then what can we do to avoid plagiarism? According to Dr. Markovits, it is important to "avoid the temptation of cheating." He went on to say that one should make sure that you have an original voice and cite all sources in order to avoid plagiarism.

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