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What plagiarism is and how to avoid it

One of the first things you will be told on entering upon any course of study is that you must not plagiarise. If this is told to you early in your academic career, as it certainly should be, then you might well be unfamiliar with the term; indeed, there are many different definitions of plagiarism.

Plagiarism is stealing!

Basically, plagiarism is stealing and what’s more, it's stealing of the worst kind because it's taking another’s ideas and passing them off as your own: in other words, cheating. Schools, colleges and universities levy severe punishments on any student caught plagiarising and in professional life, you would be prosecuted for it – plagiarism is illegal!

The Internet and plagiarism:

The increasing use of the internet as a resource, has made it much easier to plagiarise but it has also made it easier to detect, since most schools, colleges and universities now automatically scan work against millions of sources to discover whether or not a student has cheated in this way. Combined with the knowledge and experience of your teachers, tutors and lecturers, this makes it virtually impossible to get away with this type of theft. Do not make the mistake of underestimating the wide-ranging knowledge and experience of your teachers – they were students once themselves and during their careers have probably encountered every trick in the book! Therefore, make no mistake about it, if you deliberately plagiarise you will be caught.

Accidental plagiarism:

Usually, however, a student is not guilty of direct plagiarism but more often plagiarising by accident. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to do this when you are carrying out extensive research because you will be making copious notes which will be incorporating the ideas of others with your own in order to create a balanced argument and an overview of other research done in the area. If this is carried out in a rush, as for a term paper or essay you did not allow enough time for or for some reason were interrupted in your work, or over an extended period of time, as with a thesis or dissertation, then it is easy to forget where your ideas end and another’s begin, or vice versa, and this is where accidental plagiarism can all too easily occur.

How to avoid plagiarism:

A very good way to avoid this particular type of plagiarism is to record carefully every single reference you make in your notes and then to put these references into a list at the end of each referencing session that you carry out. In addition, it is an excellent idea to list every single book you consult when you consult it in the referencing style required by your school, college or university. Not only will this help you to avoid an accusation of plagiarism, it will also enable you to grow accustomed to the required referencing style of your academic institution and allow your reference list and/or bibliography to evolve over a period of time and not appear to be a rushed task, hastily compiled at the end of your work, which they should never be. Do take time to find out precisely how your school, college or university requires you to reference as there is a great deal of difference between the parenthetical/reference list method, employed by referencing styles such as Harvard, and the footnote/bibliography style, employed by referencing styles such as Oxford. It is important to get this right because, like accidental plagiarism, getting it wrong will harm your academic career.

When you begin to construct your essay, it is quite likely that you will consult a ‘model answer’ of some sort. These are frequently given out to students to help them see how an essay on the topic you are studying should be written. There are also many published works containing such model answers and websites producing custom essays to your specific requirements. Although most scorn and derision is heaped upon the last of these, there is not much to choose between them in terms of the possibility of misuse. When all is said and done, it is how you use these ‘model answers’ that makes the difference between availing yourself of a valuable academic resource and plagiarising: after all, a person who makes a kitchen knife is not responsible if someone harms themselves or someone else with it!

The best way to use this type of academic resource is as you would a book i.e. make notes from it. Some of the key points you might take as a model without plagiarising are:

Do not copy any words down from these or any other sources verbatim unless you intend to cite them correctly within your work, as you will then be plagiarising.

However, no-one could or would accuse you of this if you simply use a source of any kind to aid your own quality of work. You are, after all, expected to research your topic you must just be meticulous about differentiating between what are your own thoughts and what are those of others. Notwithstanding another very frustrating, form of accidental plagiarism can occur when you genuinely thought an idea was your own and then find it replicated in a book, journal or other resource. The only way to avoid this is to check very carefully that an area you are researching, particularly if it is a familiar area about which much has been written, has not already covered the point you are making (especially important if your work is expected to be original, as in postgraduate work like a Masters or doctoral thesis) and that if it has, you correctly attribute it.

Plagiarise and you're the one who suffers:

Remember that plagiarism is a crime and that, like all forms of cheating, it ultimately harms no-one more than it does you, so follow these simple guidelines and avoid the possibility that a charge of plagiarism will ever be levied against you throughout the course of your academic life.

Does buying an essay count as plagiarism?

If you’re struggling with your work and you buy an essay, does this constitute as plagiarism?

The act of buying the essay is perfectly legitimate.You’re allowed to buy an essay and use it for research as long as you don’t copy it word for word and submit it.We advise that you buy the essay to help your research process, just like any other model answer or journal article you’re given to look at.  If you do copy the essay word for word, reorganise sections or hand it in as it is, you’ll be conducting plagiarism.Your university will take this very seriously and will be likely to issue you with a penalty.

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If I buy an essay, how can I be sure it’s not plagiarised?

If you do decide to buy an essay, it’s wise to ensure the work you purchase is backed up with a ‘no-plagiarism’ guarantee.Ask the company you’re buying from if they’ll send you a free plagiarism scan with the essay

Now, ask if they’re willing to pay you £5,000 if you do find any instances of plagiarism and watch the excuses fly!

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