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How To Avoid Plagiarism: 

When you write for the Internet, you will soon learn that there is truly nothing new under the sun. As you set out to gather, evaluate and use the available information, you discover a humbling fact.

Everything seems to have been written about before – and seemingly in a much better way than you can manage. Once you realize this, the temptation to copy (or ‘cut and paste’) is strong and often overpowering. However, the act of using somebody else’s work and passing it off as your own is a criminal offense. The technical name for this offense is plagiarism.

Of course, there is no way one can improve on the plain, simple truth – and the rules for plagiarism are not THAT stringent. For example, ‘water flows downhill’ is a simple truth that one cannot improve on. Stating this obvious fact in one’s writing does not constitute plagiarism, even though it has been said a million times before. However, cutting and pasting an entire sentence in which another author mentions this fact IS plagiarism if the one does not mention the author as its source. One is guilty of plagiarism when one submits a work (or even a piece of work) that is not one’s own without acknowledging the source.

So what are one’s options?

One is to include citations and references in one’s work. This means that one provides basic information about a particular source work so that the reader can identify and locate it. This is most applicable (and desirable) in scholarly works such as theses or academic papers. While attributing exact quotes to their authors is a legal way of using their material in one’s own work, one must not overuse it. Too many citations and references will clutter up one’s own text, rendering it boring and hard to read. In academic works, one uses citations and references to establish that the quoted authority supports a point. One also uses citations if one must quote a perfect passage that would lose its meaning if one merely summarized it.

A good way to avoid plagiarism in non-academic works is to paraphrase the text creatively. While writing for the Internet, this means that there must be no previous incidence of exact text. This involves changing the text structure without changing or tampering with the factual content. Since word count is often a criterion in Internet-based writing, it also involves eliminating redundant words and sentences.

 Paraphrasing does not replace originality, however. Paraphrasing is applicable when one needs to express a good idea or a valid more succinctly. In other words, one can paraphrase to improve upon the source’s language or to cut down on the number of words used.

Arun Chitnis


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