How to Avoid Unintentional Plagiarism
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How to Avoid Unintentional Plagiarism

How to Avoid Unintentional Plagiarism

Unintentional plagiarism can happen when a person borrows some words and ideas but cites them incorrectly. Some folks do not also know that the words or ideas that have been borrowed should be cited. This is different from the intentional type of plagiarism where a writer copies a whole paragraph or a whole essay. However, both of them are plagiarism, and they are considered as a form of dishonesty.

Tips on avoiding plagiarism

Take notes

The surefire way to avoid plagiarism is by taking notes that are good and detailed. When taking your notes, remember to include the sources. For instance, when you write a quote, remember to state who said it. This will make it easier for you when you are writing your paper, and you need sources. When you have quotes, remember to use quotation marks.


One surefire way of avoiding plagiarism is through paraphrasing. When paraphrasing, there are some approaches that you can consider using. Both of them require that you understand fully what the author of the source you are using is saying. Some great tips on how to paraphrase include;

  • After reading, keep away your book or reading material and try to remember what you have read while writing it down.
  • The goal of paraphrasing is to write down points that you consider important. When you read something, record the information and use it later when you are writing your paper. Using this strategy has its share of advantages, for instance, you will be using your words.
  • In case, there is a quote you have, and you want to paraphrase it, carefully pick out the key terms in the quote. Write down those key points and get a unique quote that has the same idea. Remember that most of the writing you do should be in your words. Therefore, the best way to paraphrase a quote would be to interpret it in your words.


There are a few times when paraphrasing becomes blatant when trying to avoid unintentional plagiarism. At such a time, quoting is a great way to get away from paraphrasing. In most cases, you should use a quote if you think that it has a special style that you cannot use in a paraphrase. Keep in mind that a quote should not be too long. Make yours a couple of lines. In a nutshell, if you cannot say it in a better way, quote it.


If you have an idea, a figure or a fact that you have picked from a certain source, ensure that you cite it. There are many and different citation styles that you can use. These citation styles have been agreed upon by academics all over the world, and you can use them to give credit where it is due and remember to list the sources. You can choose from Chicago/Turabian, Harvard, MLA and APA just to spell a few. If you are planning to write an academic paper, your professor will specify which citation style you should use. You should follow the style throughout your paper.

Also, you need to be sure if your professor wants you to use endnotes, footnotes or if you should include a bibliography. Inquire all these information before you embark on your work. However, each citation style has its own convention. Therefore, learn one that you will want to be using.
Melissa Anderson
Born in Greenville, North Carolina. Studied Commerce at Pitt Community College. Volunteer in various international projects aimed at environmental protection.
Former Customer Service Manager at OpenTeam | Former Company secretary at Chicago Digital Post | PlagiarismSearch Communications Manager
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