So what is plagiarism exactly?
The Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary defines it as “use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “the wrongful appropriation or purloining and publication as one's own, of the ideas, or the expression of the ideas… of another.” So says Wikipedia.
That’s why it’s so important to cite your sources. With software out there today that can detect plagiarism and copied text in even the best of academic writing assignments, it’s especially vital to protect yourself by putting your cited passages into quotes, as well as saying general ideas in a slightly different fashion.
So what are the best ways to start in on a serious academic writing project then? Well, to start with, consider these simple things:
- Sources: Find good sources, pure and simple. Go to your library, find reputable websites, or scour through old newspapers. There are plenty of great sources out there, whether in print or online, you just have to find them. Use Google Books to find wonderful books that have been turned into eBooks, complete with hyperlinked tables of contents. Use Wikipedia to expand the amount of sources that you have in your bibliography; there are plenty on the bottom of the page you’re looking at for your paper, after all. You’ll always do better if you have more sources listed on your bibliography page of your academic writing assignment, and professors will notice your extra work.
- Facts: Make your facts shine by adding supplementary material other academic writing papers often leave out. There are many great ways to talk about a person’s background in a few sentences within a larger paragraph. You can just as easily highlight an area better by pointing out a few interesting historical facts that most professors will be unaware of, or at least haven’t seen in a while. The key is using these interesting and rare facts in a way that bolsters your academic writing, and doesn’t take away or distract from it. While a paragraph that provides a scenic route for the professor is great, making a page long journey of it is not recommended. If you’re writing a paper on ice-cream, don’t spend a whole page talking about cows, just a paragraph explaining which cows produce the best milk for making ice-cream, and why.
- Combinations: Everyone in your academic writing class will be using the same old required readings, and the professor will have to read the same boring facts from the same boring sources over and over again. Why not make your paper stand out, and get a higher grade in the process, by utilizing sources that many other students will have overlooked, not bothered to even think about, or are just simply too lazy to take advantage of. You can easily find something related to your topic and give it a paragraph of its own. If you can find a way to make it relate to your larger topic or argument, you’ve really got a gold nugget in the otherwise worthless pile of debris that professors everywhere are forced to shovel into their satchels.
To give you even more ideas, and because I think this subject is so important, I've written a lot on it.
Below you can find lots of articles that will help you with your academic writing.
- Academic Writing: Expanding on Facts
- Academic Writing: Elaborate on Sources
- Academic Writing with Google Books
- Academic Writing with Wikipedia