Student Success Blog For Educators


May 16, 2016

Write Smarter: Effective Ways to Avoid Plagiarism


Do you agree that ignorance of the law is no excuse? The same is true when it comes to plagiarism. Even if you don’t have the slightest idea that academic writing guidelines do exist, you can still be accused of unintentional plagiarism and asked to pass a course or test again. Naturally, committing plagiarism on purpose leads to even more severe consequences, up to and including expulsion from a university or college.


Need more reasons for avoiding plagiarism like the plague? It deprives you of developing your own mindset and establishing yourself as a good student and professional. Once you get into the habit of achieving your goal through such shortcuts, you can easily wind up losing any thirst for knowledge or patience for deep research.


But the situation isn’t as hopeless as you might think. The main reason accidental plagiarism happens is not following all the rules of proper referencing and citation. You can simplify your life and turn academic writing into a more engaging and less time-consuming task. This article will cover referencing basics and list citation tools that can help.


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Proper Referencing and Citing Display Your Research Skills

Students can prevent duplication in their assignments thanks to plagiarism checking software like Unplag, along with better referencing of sources they use. After all, an experienced educator can judge your piece simply by looking through your bibliography. The relevance of sources and their credibility greatly enhance your work and develop your academic reputation.


Furthermore, by crediting sources you achieve the following:

  • Pay tribute to those who have contributed to your topic.
  • Better support for your statements with solid theories and facts.
  • Demonstrate how deeply you’ve delved into the topic.
  • Enable readers of your paper to further pursue the topic.
  • Make your findings stand out from former approaches or conclusions.

When Reference and What to Mention

Do you tend to include references only for direct quotes? That’s the wrong approach. Even if you only mention an idea suggested by another author, you still need to acknowledge its source. But does it mean your paper will be made of nothing but quotes? Definitely not! In fact, most instructors will penalize you for papers that are essentially a bunch of quotes strung together.


Each assignment is designed to get your brain working hard. In other words, based on the sources you’ve found and analyzed, you should come up with your own well-grounded message. This is the ultimate goal.


In addition to these cases, you will also be required to attribute the source when paraphrasing or summarizing someone’s words or when using someone’s visuals (images, graphs, etc.), statistics, or other data in your paper.


Referencing, however, isn’t always a no-brainer. Sometimes you may doubt which sources to include in a works cited list. This can happen when you find a citation within one of your already-referenced sources you’d like to use. The best solution is to find the original. If that isn’t possible, then cite the source with the secondary citation – it’s better than not including important information.


In a number of cases citing is not necessary. Here’s a brief checklist for you to use to when you don’t need a citation:

  • Common knowledge.
  • Sayings, proverbs, etc.
  • Your own ideas and findings.
  • Your comments on statements provided by other authors.
  • Already-cited material.
  • A summary of historical events (if this information is the same across many sources).

The details about each source you need to list in a bibliography differ depending on the type of content you cite and the academic writing rules your instructor or educational institution have adopted.  Generally, they will be as follows:

  • Author name.
  • Book/article/journal/other work headline.
  • Place and date of publication.
  • Page numbers.
  • Web link (URL).
  • Date when you last visited a website.

For more specific rules on how to reference books, online articles, images and more in the most popular academic writing styles (APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, etc.), visit this page.

Generate Citations with a Few Clicks

May the diversity of sources and the requirements for their referencing never cause you fear! Along with easily accessible instructions or your tutor’s advice, there are countless referencing systems you can use to have all your sources cited automatically. Some even let you create your own personal reference collection by capturing entire web pages and storing them in your account, as is the case with ProCite.


Some of them also allow editing footnotes and formatting a works cited section. Below are just a few of the many tools available to you:

BibMe: BibMe is suitable for creating works cited lists in MLA, APA, Chicago, and Harvard. You can access it online for free, though if you need to save bibliographies, you’ll be asked to upgrade your account to a pro version and pay a fee. The service is easy-to-use: Just select a writing style and start looking for books, websites, films, and so on. When done, a works cited page can be downloaded. 


Cite This For Me: This tool requires creating an online account as well. Once logged in, you can work with multiple types of sources you need to cite, such as press releases, podcasts, encyclopedia articles, and many more. You can choose from Harvard, APA, MLA, Turabian, Vancouver and other styles. The moment your bibliography is completed, you are free to download it to Word or export the list to Google Drive or Evernote, share it with a group, and even email it. Additionally, the tool is empowered with a spelling and grammar checker and has a mobile app and Chrome add-on.

EasyBib: Here you can choose from auto and manual citing options. If you need to cite works in MLA format, then you are welcome to do it for free and without signup. For other academic styles like Chicago and APA, or to take advantage of extended options, you’ll be required to create a log-in and also pay for the account. To make sure this tool is what you need, there’s a free trial available.


Microsoft Word Referencing Tool: This is what most of you should be familiar with. The reference tab in a Word document allows both creating in-text citations and generating a bibliography list with one click. Here’s how it works: Select an appropriate writing style, click the Insert Citation button to add a new source (here, you can choose from different types of sources including websites, journal articles, articles in a periodical, etc.), and cite it whenever you need to by clicking the Insert Citation button.   

Bonus Tips to Develop Academic Writing Habits

Undoubtedly, knowing how to find reliable sources of information is half the battle, but “treating” them carelessly can lead to plagiarism. To avoid these pitfalls, you must develop a number of helpful writing habits. Below are the ones that can come in handy:

  • Collect as much information as possible about the sources you intend to use.
  • Highlight paragraphs or sentences to be mentioned in your paper on the fly with and save the web page to be referred to later.
  • Keep your thoughts separate from the ideas of other authors.
  • Double check in-text citations and your works cited page.
  • Save drafts and consult them whenever in doubt.
  • Label the sources you use.

Additionally, you can join a writing center or ask an educator for extra help. Whenever possible, try to get rid of all doubts long before your submission date arrives. With these tips and tools, you’ll be well on your way to academic writing success.


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Guest blogger:

Rose Scott is a teacher, tutor, and freelance writer. As an educator, she wants to cultivate students' ability to think differently. For Rose, life without teaching would be boring. Students paint her routine. Her second passion in life is writing.


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