Originality is a challenge! Few subjects offer easy opportunities for truly unique contributions. Most academic projects have a maximum three month deadline. All professors have access to online plagiarism software.
So, is copying others’ work inevitable?
No. Most definitively; the answer is NO. Education prepares us for a life-long dialogue with the world. We learn to become insightful readers, listeners, and observers of the communities we inhabit. We should be able to absorb and use the ideas of the authors we read, and give back something individual. It is important that we learn to contribute our own responses and thoughts, without running afoul of online plagiarism software.
So what is a writer and researcher to do when time and creativity are in short supply, and online plagiarism software waits tirelessly? Here are some thoughts on the challenge of avoiding even disturbing the sleeping dragon of online plagiarism software.
Try to avoid pushing the deadline. The temptation to cut intellectual corners increases under stress. Stress, sadly, is not a defense when online plagiarism software has flagged your work as inappropriately copied.
Capture all your sources!
This is a super-practical tip, from painful experience.
- The moment you open up a book or a website, immediately copy and paste the URL into your bibliography tool; RIGHT AWAY! The dynamic, interactive citation feature in Word 2007 (with file extensions .docx) helps to avoid flagging by online plagiarism software. Even with incomplete information, online plagiarism software will unable to flag your work. No excuse remains now not to insert an in-text or footnoted citation.
- Complete this new reference as soon as possible. In this way, you will never forget where you found something. It is, otherwise, insidiously tempting to include an idea from a source you saw several days ago, or longer, without taking the trouble to find it again. This is an invitation to being snagged by online plagiarism software.
- Cut and paste useful text into a file you label background, along with its URL. Again, this is another way to ensure that you know where you got an idea from, and can attribute it so that online plagiarism software will not flag you.
This procedure, if followed assiduously, will help you avoid being tripped up by online plagiarism software. Students accused of plagiarism may claim forgetting the source as their excuse. However, this does not pass muster with online plagiarism software.
Quote enthusiastically whenever the author has nailed it!
- This proves you actually did some research.
- It demonstrates your good faith citation efforts.
- It may discourage your reader from running your work through online plagiarism software.
- It also adds a least a modicum of class-act prose to your paper, no matter how incoherent the rest of it.
- When the instructor has assigned specific readings, it proves that someone actually looked at them.
It is important, however, to avoid over-quoting. The Purdue OWL website quotes James Lester as saying that 10 % is about the maximum desirable proportion of quotes.
- This could be considered poor scholarship
- It certainly interrupts the flow of the writing, even if it does not specifically pop up on online plagiarism software.
In future sections, we will continue with more ways to avoid being tripped up by online plagiarism software.