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Top 10 tips to avoid plagiarism

Pre-article mythbusters…
It’s ok to pass someone else’s work for your own as long as this doesn’t exceed 10% of your assignment. It makes you sound clever if you pass an academic’s work off as your own.  My tutor wants to know how many authoritative sources I’ve read, not what I think of them…..by Tracy Dix

Top 10 tips to avoid plagiarism

10 tips about producing original essays, contextualising your research, citing odd sources and plagiarism avoidance.

  1.    D. I. – WHYYY?

When you’re asked to declare that each essay is your own work, well, that means you have to do-it-yourself.

Imagine you’ve watched a Youtube tutorial to learn something new. Like how to play the guitar, or make your own pizza. You’ll probably watch several tutorials and look up the equipment and techniques. Finally, you’ll choose a practical method, accessible tools, and wait for the right day to try all this…

Still waiting…

and waiting….

hmm….did I remember to bookmark those videos?

The right day may never come. In this case, you’re no closer to Slash stardom or putting Dominoes out of business.

So, flicking through a pile of books from the library doesn’t make you a scholar. You need to produce your own insight. Consider this an act of giving back. Just as you’d contribute in seminars, and not be a silent sponge.

‘What’s wrong with buying music, instead of making your own?’, you might wonder.

Nothing.

But…

Whether you buy, borrow or download a book, always cite with references. This is because the work is protected by copyright. Aside from incurring penalties at university; plagiarism is illegal. Like buying a CD and passing it off as your work.

  • 2.  Trawl those shelves in times of plenty

While your reading list still glows with newness. When the best writing jumps off the shelves into your outstretched arms.  Don’t wait to scavenge plundered resources for the last dead fry.

Check the Library website to learn how to cast your net out wider. Then, the world of e-books and online journals will be your oyster.

SB053 salmon 

3.       Let your fingers do the walking

I used to love taking notes as a student. It was a good way to stop my mind from wandering.

Everyone works differently. Good ol’ fashioned pen and paper work just fine. Or make your own mini-library by typing notes up. Your research becomes editable, searchable and references don’t get lost.

Build up your bibliography by saving the full references somewhere. This will save time when note-taking. Usually, the author’s last name and page number is fine. Add the title if using multiple sources by the same author.

This is especially useful should you revisit similar texts later. Or if you decide to write a dissertation.

4.       Fret not, you can still use a bot!

EndNote online, or the venerable E.N.O., requires a bit of chugging up. Get it purring smoothly though, and it’ll organise and format references. Bit like a shopping bag that also packs food away.

Sound too good to be true?

That’s because E.N.O. has a partner in rhyme! Cite while you Write compiles your shopping list and checks it twice. You’ll never forget anything again…

It’s only flaw is the lingering sound of cheesiness.

5.       Believe it or not!

I recently met an academic who’s flabbergasted that students quote 1950s sources as if they weren’t yesterday’s news.

If a source is on your reading list, that means it’s reliable. True? Well, the author and your tutor could have been BFF at school. Such relationships do help to swing a lot of things in life.

Since the latter is possible, always check a source’s provenance. You know…how squishy the tomatoes, country of origin, production date, etc. Save dubious ones for the next blogger who cracks a bad joke. *Ducks*

6.       Agree, disagree, or something else?

Tutors don’t want you to quote sources as gospel truth. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t make you look cleverer. So, never quote an author’s work because you can’t express it better.

Students even use this to justify their doing so. *Hands up* I know I did…oh, the shame!

It shows you’ve read a book. Yes. It shows you’ve read many books, if you’re quoting several authors. But you must engage with sources to achieve the originality factor (see 1). Otherwise, your tutor may assume that you don’t understand what you’ve read.

7.       ‘Whatchu talkin’ about, Willis (replace with own name)?’

Does Arnold’s signature line go over your head? Here’s a little digression that may help.

Ask yourself this question to prevent your tutor wondering it whilst marking your work. Structure your work. Frame your argument in response to the essay topic. These are crucial processes to help you respond fully to the assignment.

This also means you won’t adopt someone else’s opinion as easily. Just like Arnold.

8.       Make sure you keep your pic ‘n’ mix clearly labelled

Images, videos, websites, lectures and podcasts need to be referenced correctly.

If any intellectual content isn’t yours, then attribute it to its creator. That’s the rule of thumb. Find out how to reference unusual media correctly using online style guides (or ask the tutor running the module what their preferred style is).

9.       Desperation is the mother of plagiarism

When D-Day hits, it drives people to all kinds of reckless, adrenalin-fuelled behaviour.  Like crowd-surfing Wikipedia and ogling Google to spark their notes.

Don’t get me wrong. I know some people thrive under pressure – but there’s good and bad. I once wrote three assignments overnight. I did fine. I’m not proud of it and wouldn’t do it again.

In my defence though, I’d completed my research and one assignment was in creative writing. So, I chose to write poetry. Much shorter, doesn’t have to rhyme… repeat stuff, and that gives the verse thematic OOMPH! Yes! #Winningatlife.

So, you’ve done no work on your assignment hours before the deadline.

Don’t be surprised if you churn out a mass-produced mess. Your tutor chews and spits it out with a reverberating PHATOOOEY!!! Disgust. Where was that golden, crispy, pressure-cooked perfection you’d both fantasised about? (It’s 3 hours post-lunch, and I’m hungry, okay??)

Chicken Wings by Dennis Brekke CC BY 2.0

10.   Never fear, help is near…

If I’ve utterly confused you by now, worry not! There is much more sensible help at hand.

Check out the Library’s online resources. Book onto one of the Endnote Web workshops (also available online).  Alternatively, contact your friendly Academic Support Librarian

Student Careers and Skills also publish excellent resources on their website. There’re also options for further support via the Academic Writing Programme.

Images: Chicken Wings/Dennis Brekke/CC BY 2.0

Salmon jumping up the waterfall/Scott Ableman/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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