This is how you avoid accidental and unintentional plagiarism (2023)

Every researcher, student, or writer has likely experienced a creative block. No matter what you do or how much you read, the words never seem to come as easily as they usually do. Before you know it, you've probably been staring at your screen for hours with only your cursor blinking back.

It must have crossed your mind once or twice – what would happen if you were caught copying someone else's work and claiming it as your own? The truth is that most people have only a vague idea of ​​what plagiarism is, and they rarely understand the consequences of copying someone else's work or idea. Understanding why this is wrong is easy enough, but the question is: why do so many people never tire of doing it?

What you need to know about plagiarism

This is how you avoid accidental and unintentional plagiarism (1)

When people think of plagiarism, the first thing that comes to mind is copying or borrowing someone else's writing word for word and not giving credit where it's due. While this idea may be correct, it doesn't exactly cover the full scope of the term. The words "borrowing" or "copying" reduce the impact of what plagiarism actually is - literary theft.

It's important to understand that when you plagiarize something, you are technically committing an act of fraud. Not only are you claiming credit for something you didn't originally do, but you also took it without any kind of notification or approval from anyone.

just like everything elseWords and ideas can be stolen. In fact, these are considered intellectual property under United States law. As long as they are recorded in some way (written or digital), they fall under thecopyright protectionLaw.

(Video) Tips to avoid Accidental Plagiarism

There are different ways to commit plagiarism and you can even do it accidentally or unintentionally if you are not careful enough. The idea of ​​unknowingly committing fraud can be intimidating. In order for you to avoid plagiarism altogether, it would be helpful to get a full overview of the many ways you can commit this type of scam.

3 common ways people commit plagiarism

As mentioned earlier, plagiarism is more than just copying or borrowing someone else's work and claiming it is your own. There are many ways people commit plagiarism, and not all are due to bad faith. Sometimes carelessness also leads to plagiarism, which is why you need to be clear about what to look out for in order to avoid plagiarism.

Here are some of the most common ways people commit plagiarism (whether intentionally or accidentally):

Submitting a letter from someone other than your own

This is one of the most common types of plagiarism, and it's quite interesting how some people think they could get away with it. Submitting a completed piece of work is incredibly obvious, especially when the writing style or thought process you typically use differs from what you submitted.

Waiver of quotation marks

Quotation marks may seem like insignificant symbols to some, but using these marks means that the words you are using are not exactly your own. Not using the quotation mark immediately gives the impression that word for word you have stolen someone else's work. To indicate that you received the words you included in your writing from others, it would be helpful to enclose the statement in quotation marks and cite the source.

(Video) Avoiding Plagiarism Tutorial: Intentional & Unintentional Plagiarism [2/7]

Don't give the author credit for using his words or ideas

In addition to the verbatim reproduction of the original author, not mentioning the name in your work in the form of a quote is a common type of plagiarism. It is important that you give credit to the author if you do not want to commit plagiarism.

Aside from the above ways, there are other ways to commit plagiarism intentionally or accidentally. You can copy the entire sentence structure and change only the words in the sentence, misrepresent or misrepresent the source of the words, ideas, or information, or copy a majority of the ideas into your work from a single source, it consists mostly of that work only. It would be ideal if you study plagiarism in detail to avoid committing it entirely.

How can plagiarism be accidental or unintentional?

This is where it can get confusing - can you really commit plagiarism if you did it unintentionally or accidentally? Isn't intent a crucial factor in carrying out a fraudulent act? If a person accidentally committed plagiarism, is it really their fault?

The short answer is yes, it is possible. So many people, especially inexperienced writers, inadvertently commit plagiarism by not writing their content properly or by not accurately citing their sources. Put simply, if the reader can assume that you wrote the words due to improper citation or paraphrasing, it can be considered plagiarism.

Therefore, it is imperative that the reader understands who is speaking when reading your work. You should be able to recognize when you are expressing your own ideas, when you are discussing and analyzing the ideas of others, or when you are directly quoting someone else's words to further explain your point.

(Video) Note taking and Writing Tips to Avoid Accidental Plagiarism

Fix unintentional or accidental plagiarism

This is how you avoid accidental and unintentional plagiarism (2)

There are various reasons why people can inadvertently commit plagiarism. Most of the time, it's not because they want to steal someone else's idea and boast about it. Instead, accidental plagiarism is a result of carelessness and a lack of attention to detail.

People who inadvertently plagiarize would fall under one of these categories:

  • They don't know how to properly cite resources
  • They don't know that the way they write falls under the category of plagiarism
  • In rushing their work, they failed to properly cite their sources
  • They accidentally wrote down the idea from a source they read without properly citing it

If you accidentally plagiarized someone else's work and want to fix the problem right away, here's what you can do:

Correct your citations and correctly name the author

If you couldn't fully cite your source or fully credit the author, you should correct this by learning how to properly cite. There are templates online that show different ways to cite authors, depending on the type of content you're copying from them. Revise your citations or bibliography section and include appropriate marks in your work to show that you got the idea from someone else.

Learn to paraphrase correctly

Some people think paraphrasing is as simple as changing a few words in a sentence and naming it a tag. However, you should know that using synonyms and changing the words in a sentence is still considered plagiarism. In order to paraphrase an idea correctly, you should also completely change the structure of the sentence and paragraph while keeping the original source.

(Video) 5 tips to avoid accidental plagiarism

Cites too many sources

Don't get us wrong—it's not wrong to credit your sources when your work needs those ideas to fly. However, if you cite too much of the work of others so that it seems like your entire article is made up of citations and quotations, then this may indicate that your work is just a repetition of the combined work of others. For security reasons, try to limit the use of cited material to a maximum of 10% overall.

In your work, clearly separate your ideas from those of others

When reading your work, it must be easy to understand where your ideas end and where others' ideas begin. Simply put, they need to be able to understand if the words they are reading are your original ideas or if they are from someone you got information or inspiration from.

consequences of plagiarism

Whether you are a student or an experienced researcher, committing plagiarism has its consequences. Of course, the penalties may vary depending on the extent of the plagiarism. There is more at stake with intentional plagiarism than if you simply carelessly and accidentally plagiarized someone else's work.

Since it can be difficult to prove that you committed plagiarism unintentionally, it would be better if you avoided it altogether. Here are some of thepenalties you may faceif you commit plagiarism:

  • Failed grades in the subject or dropping out of studies
  • Expulsion from the educational institution
  • Damaged reputation in the Academy, affecting even some of your original work
  • Fines, penalties and even lawsuits from original authors

To prevent these consequences, avoid plagiarism as much as possible. If you have noticed that you may have committed plagiarism, solve it as early as possible.

(Video) Avoiding unintentional plagiarism

Don't let negligence get in the way of your work. Learn to cite sources correctly.

Whether accidental or intentional, plagiarism is still plagiarism. It should never be an option if you want to establish yourself as a credible writer and author. To avoid being confronted with the consequences of plagiarism, you should learn to properly cite your sources and give credit where appropriate.


1. Unintentional Plagiarism
2. How to Avoid Plagiarism with 3 Simple Tricks | Scribbr 🎓
3. Unintentional Plagiarism
(Gloria Dikeogu)
4. Real Stories of Plagiarism | RMIT University
(RMIT University)
5. Avoiding Plagiarism
6. Academic Integrity - Unintentional Plagiarism


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