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Keeping It Honest
Evin Cruz
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1. Always cite your sources. Mention where you got your information by prefacing or following your facts with, “according to so-and-so,” or something similar. Refer to sources when you present the information in the body of your work, and again in the bibliography or works cited page. (If you’re not sure what a bibliography or works cited page is, ask your English teacher to explain.)

2. Write an outline. An outline is a pre-writing exercise that usually saves you time in the long run and makes your writing better. Aside from giving your report, essay, or story a basic structure, an outline will force you to think for yourself about how your ideas fit together and how they should be arranged. It will prevent you from “borrowing” the structure or basic concept of someone else’s story.

3. Never ever copy directly from a source. If you’re glancing back and forth from someone else’s words to your own blank page, it’s more likely that some of their phrases, figures of speech, or even sentences will find their way into your work.

image by Erika Faye Burke

Instead, try reading the source material without writing anything down. Concentrate on absorbing the information. Then, close the book or website. Take a break for a few minutes and let your mind digest the information.

Once you’ve cleared your head, sit down and write, recalling the same information but in your own words. Finally, double-check to make sure you haven’t unconsciously copied phrases or sentences from the original source. (If you’ve paraphrased, you should still cite your source.)

4. Ask a teacher for help. If you’re in doubt about how to avoid plagiarism, your teacher or professor can give you guidance. (And as an added bonus, they will probably be impressed by your efforts to be honest.)

image by Erika Faye Burke

There are also websites where you (and your teachers!) can check your work for plagiarism and incorrect citation. Turnitin.com allows students to hand in papers and/or check them for plagiarism online; your school or teacher has to sign up for it.

5. Remember why you’re in school. Grades matter, but the point of education is to learn to think on your own. Written assignments are intended to show your teacher or professor how you think, so he or she can help you think better. By stealing someone else’s work, you are ultimately cheating yourself.


For more explanation of what plagiarism is—and some free entertainment—check out library.camden.rutgers.edu/EducationalModule/Plagiarism

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(NYC-2010-12-07b)

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