Avoiding Accidental Plagiarism

Currikula
Currikula
Jul 27, 2018 · 4 min read

Hearing the word can generate the same reaction as hearing the name ‘Voldemort’. Plagiarism is an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorisation and the representation of that author’s work as your own without crediting them. You can plagiarise in several ways:

1. Paying or having someone else write your essay and passing the work off as your own (even with their permission). This is known as contract cheating and a popular example is the use of Essay Mills.

2. Submitting a previously written essay and passing it off as your own. (Using a previous student’s essay for example).

3. Using material from books, articles, or other material without proper referencing.

4. Forgetting to reference a quote. Leaving quotes unreferenced, even though they are in quote marks still counts as plagiarism, not matter how accidental.

5. Your writing has strong similarities to another without your knowledge and is unreferenced.

Unfortunately, many plagiarism cases are accidental but, nonetheless, treated with severe punishments. They could range from grade penalties to suspension or total expulsion depending on the case. Your university or college is likely to use a similarity checker to detect suspicious material, the most popular being Turnitin. These systems are getting more robust every year, with Turnitin saving all submitted essays for future similarity checking. Currently, your essay could be checked against over 50 billion webpages, 110 million journal articles, and over 600 million previously submitted essays globally.

Methods (1) and (2) are clearly academic dishonesty. We are strongly against people falsely claiming ideas or work as their own, and thus we will not refer to them again.

Methods (3), (4), and (5) are all likely to be solved if a reference is correctly made. Our best guidance is to reference more than less. That is why Currikula has a Smart Source feature which uses similarity checking technology to find references that you may have forgotten, lost or not known about, for your essay.

The Ultimate Essay Guide has a dedicated chapter on referencing, so you are prepared to avoid methods (3), (4), and (5). Below is a sneak peak on an introduction to referencing and some tools you can use to help along the way.

How to check your text for proper referencing

There are large discrepancies between similarity checkers and human readers, meaning a similarity checker may identify suspicious text while your instructor will not and vice versa. To be completely safe, your essay should pass both the robotic checker and the human test. Our guide to ensuring the least chance of suspicious text is as follows:

1. Run through your text and identify all direct quotes. These should all have in-text references next to them. If they do not, then it is a red flag. Find where the quote came from and insert the reference accordingly. For more information on formatting please see referencing chapter.

2. Read your essay a second time, this time looking for paragraphs that seem light on references. Any paragraph with over ten sentences and no references could have supporting material from other authors and require a reference. There are exceptions, but we suggest it is better to be safe than sorry.

3. Upload your essay to an online plagiarism checker. Depending on the importance of your essay (if it is a 10,000 word dissertation or 1,000 word personal reflection), you may want to spend money using a quality service such as WriteCheck. Any identified text should be looked at more thoroughly and referenced if required. Currikula’s Smart Source feature will let you add found references directly to your bibliography (but you will still have to reference in-text manually).

If you satisfy all three criteria above, chances are your paper is correctly referenced and you can be comfortable submitting to Turnitin or your university’s equivalent.

Free Plagiarism Checks

The reason we suggest that you use a quality service is that free plagiarism checkers need to make money some way. How do they do it? Well most of them have clauses in their T&C’s that let them retain the rights to your work and sell it on to other students. Or they reproduce it on their sites allowing others to use as ‘example’ essays.

  • ViperCheck (Scanmyessays.com) is just one such site that we would recommend avoiding.

Paid Plagiarism Checks

These are normally more trustworthy and have little reason to sell on your essay as you’re paying them in the first place. We’d recommend these services as the best options:

  • WriteCheck
  • EasyBib
  • CiteThisForMe

The number one way, however, always will be to cite others work correctly, and write your own essay. Don’t copy and paste, don’t change a few words from another’s work, mould your own essay from the ground up.


Like these quick easy tips? Want more? Register today at theultimateessayguide.com to get yourself a free copy of the e-book every student wished they had university.

This post was brought to you by the Currikula team. For more information about Currikula, please see our previous posts or visit www.currikula.com. You can create an account and use Currikula for free.

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