Tips For Avoiding Plagiarism

  1. Manage Your Time: Start early, give yourself plenty of time to work through your material and write multiple drafts of your papers. Citing sources properly and double-checking your work is time consuming; rushing through it at the last minute almost guarantees problems.
  2. Take Careful Notes: Being scrupulous in your note-taking at the outset will simplify your process at the end. Be sure you note specifically if you are copying exact words, putting another’s ideas into your own words or jotting down your own ideas so that when you sit down to weave it all together, you know exactly how each item has to be referenced. Cut and paste with caution when using Internet sources.

    Always copy the URL as well or, even better, keep a printout for future reference. Finally, make sure you cite every source you use, whether from print or electronic, radio, public speech, website or anything else you did not generate on your own. It is better to have too many citations than not enough.
  3. Use Style Guides: Citations can be confusing and, at times, it can be difficult to know how to cite unusual sources. Most disciplines or journals use an agreed-upon citation style for consistency (e.g., APA for Psychology and Education or MLA for English). Find out which style you are expected to use for your papers and then purchase the style guide or use one from the University of Alberta Libraries. Style guides provide formatting guidelines for publication and information on how to cite even the most obscure kind of source. Information is also available on the University of Alberta Libraries’ website.
  4. Understand Paraphrasing: Many students become confused by the notion that it is possible to plagiarize another person’s idea. Putting someone else’s idea into your own words still requires acknowledging the original author. When you use someone’s exact words, you must place quotation marks around the words, use an in-text citation and make an entry into your list of sources. When you put someone else’s idea into your own words, you need an in-text citation and an entry into your list of sources, but no quotation marks. That way, the person who came up with the idea in the first place gets proper credit.
  5. Ask Questions: Any time you are unsure of what should be cited or how to do so, ask the professor or supervisor who will be evaluating your work. Only that person knows exactly what he or she expects and can give you the right answer for that specific assignment. Be aware that “common knowledge” is not nearly as common as you might think. It is better to cite something than to assume that it is common knowledge.