5 Good Practices to Reduce Plagiarism in Research Writing

Plagiarism is copying somebody else’s ideas and writings and presenting them as yours. It is essential and a good practice to respect and acknowledge others’ ideas and works through correct and complete citations. Respecting and acknowledging others’ works maintain your academic and research integrity. If presenting somebody else’s ideas and writings is required, such as in the literature review or discussion sections, the ideas and writings need to be cited accurately. Even with citations, the ideas should not be presented as yours. They should be the basis of your argument or link to the wider context. If you are including any tables, graphs, images, concept maps or secondary data that are prepared by others, cite or provide the sources.

Nowadays, it has become a mandate to provide plagiarism reports or originality reports for thesis and research report submissions. The documents (thesis and reports) are run through plagiarism checking tools. Turnitin and Grammarly are some of the key tools that are used to evaluate plagiarism percentage in a document. Matching sentences, phrases, or paragraphs are reported as plagiarism. The report shows the percentage and the sources from where you have copied. The sources are ordered based on percentage of matches. Instead of using the word, plagiarism, Turnitin uses ‘matches’ and that allows it to pick matching phrases and sentences even after providing in-text citations. The percentage does not necessarily mean plagiarism. To reduce matching percentage, you may follow 5 good practices in research writing.

1. Paraphrasing: It is rewriting the sentences using different words but not changing the meaning of the sentences. It is best to avoid using consecutive words used in the original text. The key point is to use your own words in presenting the argument or findings of others. While doing this, it is important to cite the correct sources.

2. Correct and complete Citations: Correct information such as authors’ first and last names, year of publication, title of articles and journals, volume and issue numbers, place of publications, page numbers, DOIs, URLs, etc. should be correct and complete. Provide correct information in both in-text citations and reference section. Always check if the in-text citations match citations in the reference section.

3. Quotations: If you are directly copying the words or sentences from others, put quotes followed by correct citations. Quotation means you are directly copying others’ works. However, it should be correctly cited and may put a page number where the copied sentence or paragraphs appear in the original text.

4. No Self-Plagiarism: Most of the time, a high percentage of matches come from your own published papers and reports. Many believe that writing the same sentences or paragraphs from one’s own writing is not plagiarism while it is self-plagiarism. Avoid using copying and pasting from your own published papers or books or old data. Since the style, language, and words of writing are the same, self-plagiarism contributes a significant percentage of plagiarism reports.

5. Exclusion of Reference List Section: Do not include the reference section of your thesis or paper for checking plagiarism. The information of the publications is already placed on publishers’ website, reference list of other papers, or authors’ academic profiles. The tool picks these ‘matches’ too from internet sources, and hence, it is highly possible that including reference section while running on the plagiarism tool may significantly increase the percentage.

If your thesis or paper is showing a high percentage of plagiarism, try to rework on first few sources that are the most plagiarized parts of the thesis/ paper. Paraphrasing further or putting quotes, or shuffling the words may reduce the percentage efficiently.

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