Crucial information on how to avoid plagiarism:
First of all it is necessary to define what plagiarism is if we are to avoid it. Alas, the line between plagiarism and legitimate use of other people’s thoughts and ideas is very thin indeed. Hopefully then, this advice on how to avoid plagiarism will be useful!
Probably the best piece of advice in relation to plagiarism is:
“if in doubt, provide a reference”.
It is better to over-reference than under-reference in other words.
Plagiarism is using other people’s work, including their ideas, without acknowledging this.
An obvious example of plagiarism is where you use exactly the same words, i.e. a verbatim quotation, from someone else without acknowledging this. However, other forms of plagiarism are less clear. Even paraphrasing others’ work is plagiarism if you do not acknowledge the source.
The perceptive student may ask, ‘so this does not leave much room for original thought. Surely, just about every statement unless truly original must be referenced.’ Evidently, there are certain facts that are widely accepted and that do not require referencing. The statement ‘France is on the European continent’ is plainly true. The statement the GDP growth rate in the European Union outstripped the GDP growth rate in France is less self-evidently true. Someone must have gone to the trouble of collecting some economic data to be able to make this statement. A reference is required.
Good referencing comes (quickly) with practice. If you read academic literature regularly, where and where not to reference will become second nature relatively quickly.
How to reference correctly:
The main idea behind referencing is to allow the reader to check the facts for him/herself. In other words, I don’t just have to take your word for it; I have been given information on how to find the original source. This is why it is important to reference correctly (oh yes, and so that you don’t lose marks unnecessarily).
It is a good idea (a great idea in fact) to start a list of references as soon as you start university/college. There will be a time when you remember that Author X made a statement that you can now use in a different piece of work. Unless you have kept the reference you will have to go back to the library or wherever that book/journal/magazine was to find it again to be able to provide the full reference. This is very time consuming. While it may take a little time to create your list of references, it will save you time overall. Whenever you read something relating to your studies, make a note of the full reference (even better, also take notes on the content, but this is another matter which we won’t discuss here). You can easily keep a list of references in Word or Excel although dedicated referencing software exists such as Endnote, or Zotero.
Finally, do not lose marks unnecessarily by not referencing properly. Yes, I understand that referencing can be tedious, but the more often you do it the less time it will take. It will become second nature.