Recognizing and Avoiding Plagiarism in Your Research Paper

Plagiarism in research is unfortunately still a serious problem today. Research papers with plagiarism contain unauthorized quoting from other authors; the writer may even try to pass off others’ work as their own. This damages the individual’s reputation, but also the entire class, school, or field, because one can never fully trust that writer’s work is genuine. Naturally, you don’t want to contribute to that problem.

Unfortunately, plagiarism doesn’t have to be intentional to be damaging. College students and even professionals often fail to properly cite their sources for anything that isn’t common knowledge. While accidental plagiarism is more innocent, it is not less dangerous as it can still get you in a great deal of academic trouble.

The good news is, as long as you put research integrity first, and do your plagiarism due diligence, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

Ready to learn all about research paper citation rules, and how to avoid getting caught in this trap? Let’s take a look.

What is Plagiarism in Research?

Plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s work or intellectual property without acknowledging what you’re doing. Before you can truly understand plagiarism rules, it’s critical to know what plagiarism is in academic writing. In a nutshell, work is considered plagiarized if it is not your own original work and is also not cited as someone else’s.

Plagiarism is unethical because it takes the blood, sweat, and tears of other writers and passes it off as yours, without real effort on your part. This can dilute someone else’s standing or lead to confusion down the line about where credit is due. If readers can’t tell whose work led to certain academic papers, data sets, or theories, the science and art worlds suffer.

Science writers, journalists, marketing experts, medical and dental researchers, and students, among others, have all been stung by misunderstanding these rules. Even a simple copy and paste without attribution or referencing the original author is enough to signal professional and/or academic dishonesty.

The bottom line is, if you’re using someone else’s text word-for-word, you absolutely must note where that work came from. This protects the ideas of others and upholds publication ethics for all of us. That means, of course, you need to spot any plagiarism red flags from the get-go.

What Types of Plagiarism Can Occur in a Research Paper?

Some of the most common forms of plagiarism that occur in research papers and other forms of academic writing are:

  • In-text citations, in parentheses, without a corresponding citation in a bibliography or works cited page, which means people have trouble finding the true source
  • Citing work incorrectly
  • Not following the prescribed citation style, whether that’s APA, MLA, or Chicago, making it difficult or impossible for others to find the source
  • Paraphrasing someone else’s work too closely without citing the source
  • Using data or statistics from someone else without a proper citation
  • Following the format of someone else’s work in a section or in the paper as a whole
  • Attributing research to the wrong person, such as cutting and pasting someone else’s quote and attributing it either to an incorrect author, or simply not providing attribution at all
  • Relying too heavily on just a few sources, meaning you are taking their ideas wholesale

The truth is, most of this plagiarism isn’t even on purpose. Indeed, unintentional plagiarism is a major source of confusion in academia, where you yourself don’t realize that you have committed it. Self-plagiarism poses a problem too and is when you reuse your own work without citing it. This is definitely considered plagiarism even though you are the original author. Although re-using your old work is allowed with citations, doing so without them passes off old work as original, which has two drawbacks:

  1. You are not obeying the spirit of the assignment, which is to put in the time to create something new with your own ideas.
  2. You create downstream confusion when people are searching for your work, which conflicts with the entire goal of citing sources.

Direct plagiarism also occurs; however, direct plagiarism is intentional. Intentional thievery is even worse because it is often disguised by the person committing it and therefore more harmful to the original author. Again, this leads to severe moral and ethical problems, as it dilutes the hard work of others. Considering the fact that it’s generally quite easy to detect direct plagiarism, it’s worthwhile for students to realize that committing plagiarism intentionally is never worth it.

In summary, there are many examples of plagiarism of which to be aware. All of these can lead to serious trouble if you’re not continually wary of the plagiarism research paper traps. Students should know that Blackboard and other online academic portals check for plagiarism. Professionals should know that serious plagiarizing can cost them licenses, grants, and standing among their peers.

In other words, it’s no joke. To avoid potential consequences, keep an eye out for the following plagiarism research paper warning signs.

Warning Signs of Plagiarism in a Research Paper

To avoid plagiarism, research papers must be free of uncited work that uses the ideas of others. That means indicating the original source every single time you use one, with a proper citation, in the correct style as dictated by your professor or industry.

While unintentional plagiarism can happen to anyone, knowing its signs can help students and professional authors realize when they need to rewrite or add a citation to their writing. That will help you stay on the good side of academia, respect others’ work and ensure your own work is always improving. When reviewing your paper, look for the following signs that you may have failed to cite sources properly.

Infrequent Use of Citations

If you simply don’t have very many citations in a long research paper, you are likely using the ideas of others without proper credit. Most well-researched papers use dozens of sources for a 10-page paper. That indicates that you are weaving together others’ work to express your own ideas.

However, if your work contains close to five or six citations, chances are you are relying too heavily on ideas that are not your own. This indicates that you need to search more carefully for ideas that belong to others in your writing and cite them. As another suggestion, you should probably seek additional different sources to support your argument.

Using Words That You Don’t Normally Use

Any section of your paper that contains a smattering of words that don’t fit into your existing vocabulary hints you’ve likely nabbed them from somewhere else. While it’s fine (and good!) to build your word bank, inserting non-typical words into your text is a good indication that you are also inserting the ideas of others without credit. Comb over such sections carefully to ensure you have properly accredited the original writer.

Changes in Tone and Sentence Structure

As with words you don’t use, tone and sentence structure that is alien to your writing should be a red flag. Look carefully at these sections, asking yourself:

  • Are any of these sentences just reconstructions of someone else’s writing?
  • If I rewrote this idea from the ground up, would it sound different?
  • Is this the tone I’m even going for in this paper?

Changes in Font

Changes in the font used in your research paper is a dead giveaway. It indicates clearly that you have copied and pasted something into your paper, be that from an outside source or your own previous work. If you spot such a section, you should either rewrite it or source it accurately, and be sure to change the font to match the rest of your paper.

Tips to Avoid Plagiarizing

Avoiding plagiarism is truly easy. Simply provide citations for all research and ideas that you didn’t create yourself, in the correct styles. These styles include APA, most common for science and medical writing; MLA, common for the arts; and Chicago Style, usually used for publishing. You can also use the following tips for beating a plagiarism checker:

  • Paraphrase the thoughts of others in your own words instead of copying their work verbatim. This reduces the chances that your work will pull up in a search ahead of theirs, which is the fair thing to do. Make sure that you don’t confuse paraphrasing with complete freedom to forego citations, though, as both are important together.
  • Link your own ideas together using the ideas of others, but rely most heavily on your original work. Others’ thoughts and words should be used to support yours, not vice versa. Before you turn to sources for your paper, outline your own approach thoroughly. This will minimize the chances of unintended theft and maximize the impact of your contributions.
  • Always use quotation marks if you are using someone’s ideas word for word. Depending on the citation style you are using, you may instead use blocked and indented text to indicate a quote from someone else. Be sure to format your paper correctly, according to the style that has been assigned to you by a professor or superior.
  • Never use words you’re not familiar with. Not only can that lead to you expressing your ideas incorrectly, but it can also trigger plagiarism checkers if you haven’t made ideas your own.
  • Provide a full works-cited or bibliography page with every assignment you submit. Again, adhere to the citation style that was given to you, which will allow others to easily locate the sources you used. Make sure to properly cite sources in the text, footnotes, and at the end of your paper, as dictated by your style guide.
  • Be honest with professors or bosses. If you truly cannot finish something in time and are motivated to act unethically, resist the urge and take your concerns to the proper authority figure. Even turning in a botched assignment is far better for your reputation and your own ethics than using someone else’s work without the proper citations.
  • Use a citation checker to ensure that you haven’t ripped off someone else’s work without meaning it. This protects them, protects you, and protects academics as a whole.

Remember, as long as you go into an assignment with the intention to create something original that reflects your honest opinion, you will likely be fine. However, you do yourself a huge disservice if you don’t take that extra step and check your sources with a plagiarism checker.

Using Quetext To Avoid Plagiarizing in Research Papers

A citation generator can help professionals, researchers, and university students alike cite web pages, journal articles, books, newspapers, and more. With proper citation, you’ll never have to worry about accusations of plagiarism again.

Using the Quetext plagiarism checker before submitting the assignment can provide reassurance that no unauthorized quoting is taking place in your research paper. It will help you by flagging any spots in your paper that still require citations, such as a missing attribution for a book or original source.

Quetext is not only reliable, but it is also easy to use. If plagiarism of any kind is detected, the tool automatically generates the proper citation, in the required citation style, right inside the text. The citation generator will create the citations your paper needs in APA, MLA, or Chicago Style. All you have to do is enter the citation components, and voilà: your works cited page, bibliography, footnotes, and the paper as a whole will appear in the proper style.

The tool works whether the source is private or published, personal, academic, professional, or anything else. Now you can be sure to honor others’ work and avoid any negative consequences from plagiarised work. This will keep you in good standing with academic institutions and free you from any shadow of scientific misconduct.

As long as you make the effort to do your own work, respect your school’s academic integrity and use a plagiarism checker, you should have nothing to worry about. Don’t wait any longer to get peace of mind … start today.