How to Avoid Plagiarism in Writing College Assignments

You have a paper to submit tomorrow morning. But it’s already 11 pm and you haven’t even started working on your assignment. You curse yourself for being lazy enough to procrastinate the assignment till the last minute. You think about buying a paper from online paper mills.You think no one will find out that it isn’t your original work. We want you to stop right there and introduce you to the word ‘plagiarism’!

A college assignment carries a lot of importance in earning credits and sometimes if you are not careful, it can push you into the abyss of plagiarism. Before we go any further, it is important to understand what is plagiarism. While every university has its own definition of what classifies as plagiarism, we can broadly classify it into  Voluntary Plagiarism and Involuntary Plagiarism.

Voluntary Plagiarism

When a student willingly indulges in copying text, quotes, ideas or an entire paper from online or offline sources and passes it off as their own work without giving the due credit to the original work, it is termed as voluntary plagiarism. Procrastination, lack of effort, and pressure to earn credits are the major factors behind students indulging in the act of voluntary plagiarism. Every university has stringent rules to curb voluntary plagiarism, that can be as severe as suspension or even expulsion from the program. With high-quality plagiarism checker tools available online, it has become quite simple for professors to detect any case of voluntary plagiarism.

In order to avoid voluntary plagiarism, here are the two things that you can follow:

  • Time Management: Simple time management tricks can make a world of difference. Plan your assignments well in advance rather than wait until the eleventh hour. Divide your assignment into multiple tasks and set deadlines for yourself to complete it. Most students resort to voluntary plagiarism because of procrastination. So manage your time efficiently to complete your assignments before the deadline.
  • Maintain good rapport with professors: Students take the extreme step of voluntary plagiarism when they think there is no other way that they could earn a good grade. Now that we understand how voluntary plagiarism could be met with strictest punishments that could ruin the future, talking to your professors for deadline extension may not be such a bad idea. If you maintain a good rapport with your professor and you have valid reasons for not completing assignments on time, then professors could allow late submissions at the cost of a lesser grade. This situation is much better than getting expelled for plagiarism.

Involuntary Plagiarism

When a student unwittingly fails to add proper citations or forgets to give credit to the source of their paper, then it is considered as a case of involuntary plagiarism. Though it is not as bad as voluntary plagiarism, it is still frowned upon and it can lead to your assignments getting rejected. Carelessness, ignorance towards citation policies and haste to meet the assignment deadline are major causes for involuntary plagiarism among college students.

Here are a few ways to avoid involuntary plagiarism in college writing:

  • Educate yourself about plagiarism: As a college student, it is really important to understand what is considered as plagiarism and what is not. If you are directly using a paragraph or a sentence from a source, then you need to cite it by putting the text in quotes. If you are paraphrasing a text from a source, even then you need to cite the source. Many students feel that paraphrasing without citation is not plagiarism. It is untrue as you need to give credit to the source for using their idea.
  • Read your college’s policies on citation and plagiarism: As we said before, every college has their own rules when it comes to what they consider as plagiarism. Similarly, every college has its own citation policies. Ensure that you have a copy of the citation and plagiarism rules to guide you in writing a plagiarism-free assignment.
  • Don’t be shy to approach professors when in doubt: If you are not clear about any citation rule, always feel free to approach your professors. We know that some professors might not be as patient in explaining the rules again, but it is much better to understand the citation rules fully rather than getting penalized for involuntary plagiarism.
  • Start working on your assignment early: Managing your time helps in avoiding involuntary plagiarism as well. If you start your assignment when the deadline is around the corner, you are likely to make careless mistakes in citation and it could lead to a case of involuntary plagiarism. It is always better to plan your assignments and start working on it well in advance.
  • Don’t forget to cite the internet sources: The Internet gives us a plethora of information and the best thing is that it is available for free. A lot of times, students take information from the internet but forget to cite them in their paper. Even if you have got the information from a discussion forum or an email thread, it is necessary to give credit to the source when it’s due.
  • Take copies of offline citation sources: Many a time, students use text or quotes from books, periodicals, or even encyclopedias that are available in the college library. Since you won’t have access to these offline sources at all times, it is easy to forget citing these sources in your assignments. So, it is better to take photocopies of all your offline sources for citation purposes. Even if you have the book on you at all times, photocopies of offline citation sources saves time that you would waste in finding the page and the paragraph that you want to cite from the book.
  • Build your Bibliography simultaneously:  It takes a lot of time and effort to build bibliographies as you have to list all the citations that you use in your assignments. And when you create your bibliography, in the end, you are bound to miss one or two citation sources and that might land you in trouble. It is advisable to build your bibliography simultaneously while writing the assignment as you could add the citations to the bibliography as and when you cite them in the assignment.

These simple tips can be very helpful to steer clear from all kinds of plagiarism in college writing. If you have any tips of your own, please let us know in comment section below.

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