The Internet has revolutionized just about everything in our society, including writing essays. Students now have access to thousands of great sites that offer guidelines and help for those wishing to know more about how to write a good essay. You can even practice your grammar skills online, as you can on this site. The Internet also provides a previously unbelievable amount of information, at your fingertips. However, much of that information is not regulated, and can therefore not be relied on. The Internet has also made plagiarism both easier and more difficult. Although you can easily retrieve information from a wealth of sites, your instructor can more easily determine that you are using someone elses ideas. The Internet tends to encourage laziness in students who think they can cut and paste information into their essays. This type of maneuver is easily spotted by instructors. Many schools also use anti-plagiarism programs that have been made possible by the Internet.
Many colleges and universities in Canada and the United States are now requiring that students submit all of their essays to a site called turnitin.com. This site compares your essay to all other essays that have ever been uploaded to it, and also compares your essay to every site on the Internet! For preventing plagiarism, it works very well. The system will colour-code your paper within a range from green (least plagiarized) to red (most plagiarized) and will also provide your instructor with a list of the sites you have taken information from and exactly what words have been copied. Plagiarism will almost always be discovered anyway, but using turnitin.com ensures that it will. See http://www.turnitin.com/ for more information on the site, and for some recent articles on plagiarism.
How Can I Avoid Plagiarism?
Here are a few basic guidelines:
Never use a friends essay to get ideas for your own. Even if you do not intend to copy the paper, his or her ideas will creep into your writing.
Never use a so-called free student paper or buy one on the Internet. These essays are usually poor, and your instructor will notice.
Keep careful notes while conducting research. Keep track of the publication information and page number of each bit of information you record. Make sure you put quotation marks around someone elses words immediately, or you might forget to do it later.
Properly cite all sources within the body of your essay. Even if you paraphrase (put into your own words) information that you get from a source, you still must cite it, giving the author and page number or year along with the information.
Properly document all sources in your Works Cited, Bibliography, or References list at the end of your paper. Double check to make sure you have not forgotten to include any sources referenced in your essay.
Remember to cite visual information, graphics, tables, and charts as well. Even pictures that you take from the Internet must be properly cited.
Remember that even ideas need to be citednot just facts and direct quotations. You need to cite where you got anything that is not your original idea. Only your personal thoughts or things that are obviously common knowledge (such as the Canadian flag has a maple leaf on it) should not be cited. Some disciplines require a greater amount of citation than others so you should ask your instructor, but when in doubt, cite!
Keep both drafts and final copies of all assignments that you hand in to your instructors. Aside from helping you prove that you did not intend to plagiarize, these copies may come in handy if by some unforeseen accident, your essay goes missing!
Please see the Weblinks section of this site for helpful links on avoiding plagiarism.