Did I Plagiarize – How to Deal With Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental or unintentional plagiarism is one of the several headaches a student experiences during his university days. As someone said, “Just being innocent is not enough, you need evidence to prove your innocence”. We will examine the ways you can plagiarize accidentally while writing your paper and how to know if you have plagiarized. Later, we will discuss the tools which can protect you from these cases.

Is Accidental Plagiarism Real?

I have heard people about complaining about this: “I didn’t want to plagiarize. I accidentally did?”

How can someone cheat when he doesn’t want to cheat. The truth is, yes! you can. Accidental plagiarism can be totally possible if you are not properly writing your content or you haven’t organized quotes, paragraphs properly.

Many times, we need to paraphrase else’s work. It can come out as unintentional plagiarism in Turnitin or other tools if you are not doing it properly and you haven’t included the original source as the in-text citation. Since the reader will assume that the words are yours, it will be considered as plagiarism.

What is Accidental Plagiarism?

Keeping the definition simple, Accidental plagiarism can be defined as an act of reusing someone’s ideas, thoughts or work without knowing it. The act can be the consequence of improper citation, wrong attribution or unorganized work.

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What is Intentional Plagiarism Then?

Every thief tries to be innocent. This is the problem with “Not being aware”. Intentional plagiarism is the act of copying, stealing ideas and/or words and pretending as it is yours. Not knowing cannot be a good excuse as every plagiarist says the same after getting caught.

Did I Plagiarize? – How to Know This

Thanks to the advancement of technology that you could actually (and exactly) know if you are plagiarizing. There are many tools which provide luxury to find your lost links, similarity percentage, side-by-side comparison while writing your paper. You can run reports against these tools to see if something similar pops-up.

I recommend PlagiarismCheckerX for several reasons,

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3 Ways to Avoid Accidental and Self-plagiarism

Don’t let yourself be confused with self-plagiarism. Self-plagiarism is when you unintentionally (or intentionally) re-use your content. This may happen when you are using unsafe plagiarism checkers or Grammar editors to check your work and they are sharing your work publicly.

Mostly free tools are involved in such activities despite their terms and conditions. Here are some ideas to avoid Unintentional plagiarism.

  1. Keep Note of Your URLs
    • You can use PlagiarismCheckerX to detect your lost links. Alternatively, you can use Evernote or Pocket to keep track of sources you are collecting information from.
  2. Do Not Misattribute
    • When you already know that you have plagiarized a bit, Don’t misattribute something. It is your responsibility as a student to gather the right information and citing everything properly.
  3. While Copying Word-by-Word
    • Take at most care while copying word-by-word from any source. Use blockquotes to highlight that portion and cite properly. HTML’s <blockquote> is used to denote something you are copying from some other source, where <q> is used to add simple quotes. You can use this formatting if you are writing online.
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At the End

Being confused or unorganized can lead to accidental plagiarism. The ways and tools mentioned above will help you to avoid such traps. As previously discussed, you should avoid the use of free tools as they are way more dangerous. Many people like to make a reference to URLs while writing their articles. It will keep track of all URLs. You can use your own strategy of doing this, for example, adding different colours or changing fonts etc.

Unintentional plagiarism is as serious as intentional plagiarism, so always take care of it.

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