Plagiarism. It’s a dirty word. According to Merriam Webster, the definition of plagiarize, the root word of plagiarism, is the following:

plagiarized; plagiarizing

transitive verb

: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: use (another’s production) without crediting the source

intransitive verb

: to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

Plagiarism is taking someone’s facts, figures of speech, original writing, etc., and claiming them as one’s own work. While plagiarism is denounced in every sector of literary, with the Internet ready, willing, and able to provide information free of charge, plagiarism is a sad reality.

When someone plagiaries, it shows laziness, a lack of integrity, and proclaims the writer as selfish. As writers, we want to be just the opposite: people who are honest, forthcoming, and willing to “give credit where credit is due.” According to, there are five common forms of plagiarism:

  • Direct plagiarism – Taking another person’s ideas word for word without giving proper citation.
  • Self-plagiarism – Submitting your own previous work as part of a current assignment without permission.
  • Mosaic plagiarism – Quoting another’s work without quotation marks. This can also refer to replacing words in another’s work with synonyms while maintaining the same overall structure and meaning.
  • Accidental plagiarism – Forgetting to cite sources, misquoting sources, or paraphrasing sources without giving credit.

In an article on plagiarism, The Writer online magazine notes six ways research can turn into plagiarism:

  1. Relying on memory when writing about your research
  2. Becoming “immune” to plagiarism from reading it on the web
  3. Cutting and pasting research into your document
  4. Taking sloppy notes
  5. Failing to give credit for ideas
  6. Thinking replacing important words with synonyms is all there is to paraphrasing

How to Avoid Plagiarism

You might be asking yourself, “How do I avoid plagiarism?” This is an easy question to answer—do as the good book says: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). How does that help you avoid plagiarism? That is answered with another question: Would you want someone to use your material without giving you credit?

On a practical application, offers the following simple steps in an article on avoiding plagiarism:

  1. Save or note the relevant information for all sources used in the research stage.
  2. Quote, paraphrase, and summarize correctly.
  3. Include correct citations and a reference list according to your designated citation style.
  4. Thoroughly review your paper for any possible plagiarism.
  5. Run a plagiarism check.

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Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, you want to be known as a responsible, trustworthy, and reliable source. When you avoid plagiarism, your readers will put their trust and their confidence in your writing.