How to Check My Research Paper for Plagiarism: Useful Advice

In academics, including middle school and high school, plagiarism is probably the biggest cardinal sin that you could possibly commit. In schools and universities, as well as among professional academics who do research for a living, intellectual honesty is of paramount importance. Plagiarism, simply put, means claiming someone else’s work or ideas as your own. This could mean quoting passages from someone else’s book or paper verbatim, claiming someone else’s research findings as your own, or even failing to cite an idea or fact properly. Plagiarism could easily cause you to fail a class, and can even lead to academic suspension or expulsion, especially at the university level. Because of this, it’s extremely important to make sure your paper doesn’t contain anything at all that could possibly be construed as plagiarism. Here are some tips for making sure your research paper gives credit to any and all ideas, words, and other components that are not your own original thoughts.

  • Use citations for everything. Citations are incredibly important for academic research papers. For humanities courses, you’ll generally use MLA format, whereas APA is preferred for the natural sciences and social sciences. Cite every single material you use in your paper. Even if you read something for information, but did not use it directly, it’s still a good idea to include it on your works cited page. Each piece of information in the body of your paper should include an annotation that marks which of the works cited it came from, generally including the author name and page number. Even if it isn’t a direct quote, it should still be credited appropriately.
  • Be sure to mark any direct quotes in the body of your research paper as such. For shorter passages, you’ll generally use quotation marks. For example, “According to Jones, ‘plagiarism can sometimes occur unintentionally.’ (Jones 1942).” For longer passages exceeding a paragraph or so, you usually indent them fully to separate them out from the rest of the paper, which is less visually confusing than enclosing them in quotation marks.
  • Take advantage of online plagiarism checkers. There are a number of free online tools that you can use to compare your research paper against databases of other written and published materials, ensuring that you haven’t unwittingly copied someone else’s wording. It’s easy to accidentally neglect to put someone’s idea into your own words effectively, and these tools can help you spot these errors before you turn in your paper.