Plagiarism - Avoid it Like the Plague!


June 28, 2012
by Jessica Seals

After giving up a night out with your roommates so that you can write a research paper worth one-third of your grade, you would probably be devastated if your teacher flagged your work for plagiarism. Punishment for plagiarism ranges from a warning or receiving a 0 on the paper to failing the course or being expelled from the college. Your chances at graduating from college should never be put in jeopardy because of plagiarism and here are a few tips to help you avoid it.

1. Make sure to cite all phrases and sentences that do not belong to you. Even the smallest phrase can get you into trouble if you do not provide a proper citation for it. Make sure to check with your teacher on what format they prefer their students to use (APA, MLA, etc.) for citations so there is no confusion.
2. Ask questions if you do not know how to properly cite something. You can also get reprimanded if you cite your work incorrectly. There are several resources available online that give you step-by-step instructions on how to make citations in different formats.
3. Always make sure that your citations are accurate. I learned this lesson the hard way: I was in a rush to finish a paper and mixed up two of my sources. While I did not get into trouble for plagiarizing, I did lose several points because my teacher discovered that I had improperly labeled some of my information when she checked the citations.
4.Never put off an important paper until the last minute. A few hours before your paper is due, you realize that there is no way that you will finish in time so you decide to “borrow” the work of another person that you found online. Bad idea: Today, teachers have access to plagiarism software that will highlight any information that came from another paper and give the teacher access to that work. If you give yourself enough time to complete your assignment, you won’t be tempted to copy.

After giving up a night out with your roommates so that you can write a research paper worth one-third of your grade, you would probably be devastated if your teacher flagged your work for plagiarism. Punishment for plagiarism ranges from a warning or receiving a 0 on the paper to failing the course or being expelled from the college. Your chances at graduating from college should never be put in jeopardy because of plagiarism and here are a few tips to help you avoid it.

  • 1. Make sure to cite all phrases and sentences that do not belong to you. Even the smallest phrase can get you into trouble if you do not provide a proper citation for it. Make sure to check with your teacher on what format they prefer their students to use (APA, MLA, etc.) for citations so there is no confusion.
  • 2. Ask questions if you do not know how to properly cite something. You can also get reprimanded if you cite your work incorrectly. There are several resources available online that give you step-by-step instructions on how to make citations in different formats.
  • 3. Always make sure that your citations are accurate. I learned this lesson the hard way: I was in a rush to finish a paper and mixed up two of my sources. While I did not get into trouble for plagiarizing, I did lose several points because my teacher discovered that I had improperly labeled some of my information when she checked the citations.
  • 4.Never put off an important paper until the last minute. A few hours before your paper is due, you realize that there is no way that you will finish in time so you decide to “borrow” the work of another person that you found online. Bad idea: Today, teachers have access to plagiarism software that will highlight any information that came from another paper and give the teacher access to that work. If you give yourself enough time to complete your assignment, you won’t be tempted to copy.

I have seen fellow classmates get into trouble because of plagiarism – depending on the severity of it, even one instance of plagiarism can potentially ruin an otherwise stellar academic career – and they realized it is never worth the risk to cheat when you can easily be caught.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. Jessica will be back at Memphis this fall to begin working toward her master’s degree in political science this fall; she ultimately hopes to attend law school.

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