• 3-minute read
  • 10th August 2016

Plagiarism and How to Avoid It: A Guide for College Students

A frightful hobgoblin is stalking academia. Its name is plagiarism. This isn’t a new problem, but the rise of the internet has made it easy to access a wide range of sources, so the temptation to plagiarize is stronger than ever.

But what exactly is plagiarism? Why is it a problem? And how can you avoid it in your own written work?

What Is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is attempting to pass off another person’s words or ideas as your own, intentionally or otherwise. Usually, this means copying text without clearly showing where it comes from.

The line about a “frightful hobgoblin” above, for instance, is adapted from an early translation of Marx’s Communist Manifesto. We didn’t indicate this immediately, so we could be accused of plagiarism. Our only defense is that we really like hobgoblins.

Our favorite kind of “Hobgoblin.”

It might not sound like you could “accidentally” plagiarize something, but it’s easy to miss a citation when quoting a source. And this could be wrongly interpreted as plagiarism. Plagiarism can have serious consequences, too, such as having marks deducted or being kicked off your course!

As such, even if you have no intention of copying someone else, you should make sure that no one could mistakenly think you have plagiarized something.

Plagiarism Is Bad, I Get It. How Do I Avoid It?

How can you avoid accidental plagiarism in your work? We’re glad you asked! Here are our top five tips for making sure your work is plagiarism free…


You’d be surprised how many people don’t think to check their school’s style guide for advice about referencing and plagiarism. SO READ YOUR STYLE GUIDE NOW! Done? Good. It should have spelled out what your school counts as plagiarism and how to cite sources.

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

And with that information in mind, let’s move on.

2. Cite Sources Clearly and Consistently

Whenever your work draws on another thinker, it’s important to cite your source. The most common examples are quoting or paraphrasing a text, but it also applies if you’re using data or images published elsewhere.

3. Reference List/Bibliography

Most referencing systems require you to add a reference list at the end of your essay, complete with full publication information for all cited sources. This is a vital part of referencing in most systems, so you can’t skipped the reference list just because you cite sources in the text!

4. Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks whenever you borrow directly from another source, clearly indicating where the original passage can be found. This usually requires giving page numbers in the citation.

Quotation Marks
We have this same design on our office wallpaper.

5. Use Your Own Words

Paraphrasing means rephrasing something. This is often better than quoting directly, but you still need to cite sources, and you must write a new sentence in your own words. Don’t simply copy from a source and change a few terms!

Getting your work proofread can help, too, as we can help you make sure that all quoted text is punctuation and cited correctly.

Comments (0)

Got content that needs a quick turnaround?

Let us polish your work.

Explore our editorial business services.

More Writing Tips?
Trusted by thousands of leading
institutions and businesses

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.