As you progress through from GCSEs to A-levels and university degrees, you’ll be expected to refer to other scholars and critics more and more to help add substance to your work and support the points you’re making. This is a great way to broaden your knowledge of a subject, as well as making you think about new ideas and arguments that you may not have picked up on beforehand. However, when you’re incorporating other people’s work and ideas into your own, the line between original thought and analysis, and plagiarism gets thinner. All schools and universities have tough punishments for students caught cheating or copying, so follow these tips to ensure you don’t get caught out.
1. Follow your school’s referencing guide
Every school, college and university will have their own preferred method of referencing, and to ensure you don’t get accused of plagiarism or have your work down-graded it’s imperative to stick to their rules. Referencing can be tricky to master at first, but there are many great online resources to help you out, and your teachers will always be there to further explain if you need it. Different departments in the same school or university will often use different referencing methods, so don’t just assume you know what one to do – check with your teacher if they don’t specify.
2. Get into good habits
You may not be required to reference or provide a ‘Works Cited’ list yet, but it’s always great to get into a habit of noting down books, speakers and influential people before you have to. Start compiling bibliographies for each essay you write if you’re using quotations or ideas from other people. This isn’t hard: just include an alphabetised list of the book title, its author and the date of publication at the end of your piece of work.
3. Make good notes
When you’ve got into a roll doing your research, it can be easy to forget to jot down important reference details, so when making notes from books, online essays or other academic sources, always write down as much about them as possible before starting the real note taking. Include the title, the authors, the date and country of production, what format it is (i.e. is it an essay, an anthology, a lecture?), and the publisher or producer. This way, even if you are missing details, it will be easy to find the book again. Similarly, if you’re copying huge chunks out, remember to put quotation marks around them and the page number! Going back over your notes at a later date may lead to forgetting that you took this information from somewhere else, rather than it being your own.
4. Don’t pass off ideas as your own
This may sound like obvious advice, but when you read something that sums up exactly what you think, it can be easy to borrow from it. Instead of doing this, use it to support your thinking and your argument: don’t just absorb it into your own work. All arguments have more strength with support! Whenever you use someone’s idea, or quote them, make sure to add your own interpretation and opinion about it: merely including names of other academics isn’t enough.
5. If in doubt, leave it out
If there’s a line you’re unsure about, or something that sounds very similar to a sentence you read in a book, rewrite! Plagiarism is a very serious matter and it’s not worth taking the risk. Teachers are good at identifying what sounds like you and how you write, and what doesn’t – especially if they’re used to your writing style. For this reason, if you copy something out of a book, or shoddily rephrase it, you could find yourself in trouble. Take the time to understand what you’re reading, form your own opinion of it, and write it yourself.
Written by JC (Guest Blogger)
You got into university, hurray! All those tests and early mornings, all those heavy t...