I have been a habitual writer since my childhood but recently planned to move on to the next level and use my skills professionally. From last 7-8 months I am trying for small internships (paid /non paid) for developing my skills. As a background info, I am an undergraduate student of electronics and Instrumentation engineering, so most of the time my articles are inclined towards technology. When I posted my articles I tried to post them explaining every detail which became a drawback of my article, making it essayish. I also have a habit of reading science journalas and papers where informations are directly put with numbers refering to other papers. I found most of them are used intacttly without any sort of change. I have applied the same technique in some parts of my articles which contained very technical information and any change might change the actual meaning. When posting I found people who were screening rejected them refering them as plagarised contents. Though I always write the sources along with the contents.

That's why I would like to know how to avoid such plagiarism?

4 Answers 4


First: If you're talking about a scholarly paper, you should always cite your sources. Then, pretty much by definition, it is not plagiarism. You can copy pages of material from somebody else word for word, and if you put in quotation marks and a proper footnote, it's not plagiarism. (It may be copyright violation, but that's a different question.) On the flip side, never ever ever copy someone else's exact words without putting it in quotes and giving a footnote.

Second: Minimize the use of long word-for-word quotes. If this is a scholarly paper and you're copying someone else's research or ideas, you still need to give a footnote. But it's generally considered lazy, bad form, generally not a good thing, to copy long sections from someone else's work word for word. Extract the part that is relevant to your point and put it in your own words.

If you're writing about a controversial issue it may be necessary to use an exact quote to make clear that you're not putting words in someone else's mouth. "Senator Jones admitted that he is a racist and a Nazi" would lead careful readers to question exactly what he said. "In his speech to the XYZ Society on June 3, 2014, Senator Jones said ..." would be much more persuasive. (You could be lying about the quote, of course, but that's verifiable.) Of course a subject doesn't have to be that inflammatory. A point about the history of the Hittites or about nuclear physics might be controversial enough among experts in the field that an unsupported statement that "Dr So-and-So agrees with me" might be questioned.

But besides that, you rarely need exact quotes or long quotes. You can easily write, for example, "Newton said that the same force that makes an apple fall to the ground also keep the planets in their orbits" and then go on to make whatever point you want. It isn't necessary to quote Newton's exact words.

In practice, I often find that quoting someone else's exact words makes the text more difficult to read. Usually the original source includes the points I want to make mixed in with other points not relevant at the moment, and I have to leave out chunks with ellipses. Or I have to re-state what the original source said in my own words to make the point clear anyway.


The best way to avoid plagiarising content is by avoiding plagiarising content.

Now, as obvious as that probably sounds when stated like that, bear with me for a second before you hit the downvote arrow. This question really boils down to, do your texts really need to include the actual text of the cited work incorporated verbatim into your own text?

My experience is that a lot of the time, they don't, and it can even be a distraction from the original point that you are trying to make. Assuming that the reader is familiar with the subject matter further exacerbates this: by incorporating text that describes something the reader is already familiar with, you detract from what you are trying to add on top of that.

Thus, verbatim incorporation of the referenced text is at best superfluous, and more likely actively to the detriment of the purpose of the text that you are writing.

People who are reading a text on a "very technical" matter often have some level of background knowledge of the subject matter. The major exception to this is if what you are writing is specifically intended as an introduction to the subject, but in that case, the full and verbatim text of the referenced work is likely to do more harm than good in terms of helping the reader understand the subject matter. In neither case is incorporating the text of the reference verbatim to anyone's advantage (unless you are seeking to strictly increase your word count, but in that case, Lorem Ipsum is quicker).

As a somewhat contrived and almost certainly exaggerated example, I could incorporate the text of Wikipedia's article on plagiarism into this answer. It probably would probably be relevant, I wouldn't be violating any license terms as long as I give proper attribution (both the "subscriber content" of Stack Exchange, and the content of Wikipedia, is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0), but it also almost certainly would not enhance your understanding of the answer. That last would make copying the Wikipedia article into this answer a poor choice. To a first order approximation, the text of the Wikipedia article is about ten printed pages; this answer would likely be completely buried in that mass of text (illustrating how verbatim incorporation of references can be outright detrimental).

If you feel your audience really need to have the text of the reference provided to them, and the license for the referenced article allows verbatim redistribution, consider attaching the referenced article as an appendix, clearly stating where it's from, who it's by, and any other relevant details (check the specific license for details). However, if the reference itself (as opposed to the referenced work) is any good, chances are you won't need to, because those who want to read the referenced work will be able to get to it and others can just go on with what they want to do.


The definition of plagiarism varies by context. Technically, you avoid the charge of plagiarism by citing sources, but that ignores the issue of what you are using the quoted material to do.

A quotation should be used to support your argument, not to express your argument. In other words, if you are arguing a point and you want to say, John Smith agrees with me, then you quote a few lines from John Smith that say the same thing you have already said (in different words).

Or if you are making a point that differs from that of John Smith, you quote a few lines from John Smith to show that you are representing his views correctly, and they you go on to explain why John Smith is wrong.

Or you are making an argument that depends on certain key facts being true, which some people may doubt, so you quote the renowned John Smith to prove that the facts on which your argument depends are true.

In each of these cases, your argument exists in full in your own words, independent of the quotations. The quotations are there to support what you are claiming about the works of other that you are citing, or to support a fact that you are asserting. In each case, if you removed the quotes, the reader would still understand your argument in full. They might be less inclined to accept it, without the evidence you have quoted, but they would be able to fully understand it.

Contrast this to when you use the work of others to make some of all of your case. For instance, suppose you write an article Why we should return to the gold standard and in it you write, "As John Smith argues in his article Gold is Good and then go on to reproduce a big chunk of the article. This is not technical plagiarism in the sense that you failed to acknowledge your source. But it is moral plagiarism in that you are using John Smith's words to make the argument, not merely to support it. You did not do any work other than reading John Smith's work and copying and pasting.

In addition to being moral plagiarism, this is also a copyright violation, since this usage does not fall within the scope of fair use. (Citing sources make absolutely no difference in copyright law.)

If you were to paraphrase most of John Smith's work and only quote snippets, this would (probably) avoid the copyright charge, but it would still be moral plagiarism because you are still not doing the work yourself, just paraphrasing the work of another.

You can, of course, paraphrase the arguments of other in support of your own argument. But you need to have an argument of your own that constitutes the raison d'etre of your article, or morally, at least, you are still plagiarizing.


Simple: don't "import" the information. Read, understand, process, and internalize the source. Then put the source to the side, and actually write your own words about a concept that you actually understand. Then add a footnote/ parenthetical citation giving credit to the source.

If, instead, you copy the information and try to change some words to avoid plagiarism, there's a good chance you'll end up committing plagiarism anyway.

Another simple way to avoid plagiarism: just copy and paste the whole thing, but put the whole thing in quotation marks and say "According to X, '...'". And then add the citation. Depending on the context, you may be violating copyright law, but it is certainly not plagiarism because you would not have claimed someone else's words or ideas as your own.

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