How To Avoid PlagiarismWriter's Web
(printable version here)

Upon interviewing a few of the Psychology professors here at the University of Richmond, one issue that was continually mentioned was the importance of avoiding plagiarism. Since the nature of Psychology writing involves a lot of research, there is a fairly high risk of either knowingly or unknowingly plagiarizing material. Therefore, below, we have provided a few tips and guidelines to help you as you write!

1. Know When to Cite

First and foremost, many incoming students have the misconception that you only have to cite your information if it is a direct quote. However, this is far from the truth. Even if you are paraphrasing an idea, you need to provide a citation. As a “Golden Rule” you should always remember to give credit where credit is due. In other words, if the idea is not completely your own, you must cite the source (journal, magazine, book, internet site, etc,) where the information was found. Otherwise, you could be at risk of plagiarizing.

2. Use Quotation Marks

If you do decide you use an exact quote from a particular source, it is important that you use quotation marks, copy the information word for word, and cite the source. If you do not, you could be misconstruing the author’s original idea and presenting a false representation.

3. Err on the Side of Caution

It can be hard at times to distinguish your own ideas from other people’s ideas, however, when in doubt it is best to always err on the safe side and cite a source! Unless it can be qualified as “common knowledge,” you ought to take a second to ask yourself where that thought or piece of information originated.

Helpful Tips:

  • Try not to use more than two quotes per page. Even though psychology involves a lot of research and references to past studies, try and keep your paper as original as possible
  • Try to read carefully read through all of your research information thoroughly before writing. That way, you can put the research material away when it actually comes time to start your paper and resist the temptation of copying the material.
  • Make sure that you are using the proper citation guidelines set out by your professor (APA, MLA, Chicago). Not using the correct form of citations can also be a form of plagiarism.

For more information, see the Writer's Web pages on using sources.

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