What is Plagiarism? Don’t be a Slave Trader! Tips to avoid plagiarism for Term Papers and theses

 Don’t be a Slave Trader! Tips to avoid plagiarism for Term Papers and theses

Whether classic copy-and-paste, complete plagiarism, or ghostwriting: There are many forms of plagiarism. However, students do not always submit plagiarism out of bad faith. In this article, I’ll give you a few tips that you can use to both protect yourself from allegations of plagiarism and avoid accidental plagiarism.


What is Plagiarism


Some writers are “slave traders.” Why? Because they make plagiarism, whether intentionally or unintentionally. You may be wondering now:


“What does plagiarism have to do with a slave trader?”


The word plagiarism is derived from “plagiarius. ” That means “slave trader” in Latin. And in principle, a plagiarizing author is precisely that: He captures foreign thoughts and passes them on as his own, for money, fame, and good grades – three valuable currencies in our society.


The pursuit of money, fame, and good grades leads many to betray and deceive. That does damage: Damage to science, literature business, and trust in politicians (which is already low).


Students also suffer damage: They are under general suspicion. Every student is a potential plagiarist; At least, I always get when I read academic writing instructions and work at some universities.


That unsettles many students. What is plagiarism anyway? How can I avoid being accused of plagiarism? And is plagiarism always intentional? I answer these questions in this article.

What is Plagiarism?

Your term paper or thesis is plagiarized if it contains text excerpts that you did not write yourself, and you do not state where you got these text excerpts from.


It can even go so far that you hand in a complete text that you did not write yourself but someone else, pretending it was your text.

There are different forms of plagiarism. I will now introduce you to them.


How can students plagiarize?


What is Plagiarism

Ghostwriting: You are submitting work that you did not write yourself but someone else.

Example: You pay someone to write the paper for you and then submit it under your name.

Complete plagiarism: You are submitting someone else’s work under your name.

Example: You submit the exact text that your best friend Laxman wrote. Or you can find a brilliant term paper on Google, print it out, and submit it. Yes, that happens sometimes!

Self-plagiarism: You are submitting the exact text or extracts from it for different examination occasions.

Example: You submit part of your bachelor thesis as a term paper in the master’s program as a seemingly new work.

Translation plagiarism: You translate foreign-language texts or text excerpts and pass them off as your own without citing the source.

Example: You find the thoughts in an English-language source so suitable and great that you translate them and do not state where you got these right and great ideas from.

Copy-and-paste plagiarism: You take parts of someone else’s text and insert them into your own without identifying the source with a literature reference.

Example: You copy sentences from a few texts on the Internet, then press “Ctrl + v” and pretend to write these sentences yourself.

Paraphrasing plagiarism: You take over parts of a foreign text, rephrase them a little, and then do not cite a source.

Example: You adopt the statements of others, replace a few words with a few others and combine them with a few transitional phrases. Of course, you save yourself the literature reference.

You do the same thing as paraphrasing plagiarism. This time you give a source, but not where it belongs, namely in the body text at the point where you reproduce someone else’s thoughts.

Example: Instead of a bibliography in the appropriate place in the running text, write a reference in the bibliography. Incidentally, you can see this particularly often with bad non-fiction books. There are no references, but only “pseudo bibliographies” in which you have to search for everything laboriously. They are then often called “literature used.” Please don’t do that!


The common thing about these forms of plagiarism is that some can happen to you by mistake!


Translation plagiarism can quickly happen accidentally, especially when you read many foreign-language texts in your literature. But you can easily avoid translation plagiarism. How? I’ll tell you below. You don’t even need to spend a lot of money on a “plagiarism check. “

Other forms of plagiarism are so bold that they cannot be accidental, namely ghostwriting and complete plagiarism. Anyone who gives something like this does not act inadvertently but with the conscious intention of cheating. This is mainly due to an economic consideration:


“Why should I work myself when I can let someone else work, even for money? That’s much more efficient”.


Even a self-plagiarism is often done based on economic considerations:


“Why should I write a completely new text when I can just use my bachelor thesis again?”


But be careful: A self-plagiarism should not be confused with a self-citation. Self-quotations are pretty legitimate and also standard. It is okay if you deepen the topic of your bachelor thesis in your master’s thesis and refer to it. But then, of course, you have to cite your bachelor thesis like any other source.


Probably the stupidest form of plagiarism is copy-and-paste plagiarism. It’s ridiculous primarily because it’s easy to spot, even without plagiarism detection software. Finally, there are search engines.


Why do some students plagiarize?


Now you know the common forms of plagiarism. But why do some plagiarize at all? You already know three reasons:

By mistake (e.g., in the case of paraphrasing or translation plagiarism)

evil intent (ghostwriting and complete plagiarism)

Economic efficiency (e.g., in the case of ghostwriting or self-plagiarism)

But there are other reasons as well. One of them:

the pursuit of a higher social status


Above all, a doctorate has a signal function: It shows that you can work intensively on a topic and develop it further. And that makes an impression and creates a wide range of social opportunities. It is a “credibility indicator”: 3 Anyone who has this is considered an expert and can go far – on the board of a large company or in a federal ministry. Unfortunately, this leads some people to plagiarize their dissertation to accelerate their social advancement.


Hire a Ghostwriter


Of course, Eco meant that ironically. Both possibilities are to be seen primarily as “acts of desperation. “5 This shows that the subject of “plagiarism” is by no means new or even a product of short-sighted “educational reformations.”


How do you recognize plagiarism?


Even without expensive plagiarism software, plagiarism is relatively easy to detect. For example on style: Marita Fuchs 6 quotes a professor of political science at the University of Zurich:

“If suddenly a position is brilliantly formulated in the middle of work, I become suspicious.”


This means that a “noticeable break in style” makes you at least suspicious. Such a style break can especially happen if you submit copy-and-paste plagiarism: Your text jumps around, and then suddenly, there is a paragraph in a completely different language style. 


Formatting error in the middle of the text


It means that if you do not pay close attention to your language, your spelling, and uniform formatting when writing your text, suspicious lecturers can quickly accuse you of plagiarism.


The good thing: you can avoid being accused of plagiarism!


How can I avoid being accused of plagiarism?


When you study, you are under general suspicion of being a potential “plagiarist.” However, you can avoid this widespread suspicion if you adhere to the following tips:


Write your work yourself!


Make an effort and submit a text that you have written yourself. If you are overwhelmed and have problems with writing, you can always look for and find help, whether at the writing center at your university or through commercial writing coaching. Better to spend your money on it, because you will learn something more.


Use a consistent writing style!


Nothing stands out as much as copy-and-paste plagiarism because of “noticeable stylistic inconsistencies.” If you write your work in a uniform, consistent writing style, nobody can accuse you of having “noticeable style breaks.” If you are unsure about your writing style, you can always look for help, whether in writing advice or an editing department.


Format your work consistently!


Make sure that you use consistent fonts and sizes throughout your work. Your literature records should also have a consistent style. Decide on a layout and stick with it throughout your career.


How can I avoid accidental plagiarism?


Accidental plagiarism is annoying because it can cost you your university place and maybe even your degree. 


So here are a few tips on how to avoid unintentional plagiarism:


Understand why you should quote and substantiate.


Quotations and literature references are not an end in themselves. Many references in the text and a page-long bibliography are not “posing” or “name dropping,” but a central component of the scientific approach. 


After all, your statements must be verifiable. Otherwise, it is not possible to critically examine your thoughts. If you want to evade this criticism by not substantiating your statements, then you are doing a lot – religion or ideology, for example. But you don’t do one thing: science. And that’s what you should learn during your studies.


Make reading notes.


Translation and paraphrasing plagiarism, in particular, is often accidentally done. It leads to the fact that when you are writing, at the latest, you confuse your thoughts with those from other people’s texts and then write a lot as if you had made it up yourself. And you’ve accidentally plagiarized …


The solution: Document what you read! For every text you read, write down notes about the text messages critical to your work. Always note where you got the statements from; in other words: Make a literature reference for each text. This takes longer than just reading, but it prevents you from accidentally mistaking someone else’s thoughts as your own.


Keep these notes. There are many ways to do this. For example, you can collect them in a folder that you create for your work. You can also archive the notes on the computer. You can either manage individual text files in a folder for this purpose. It’s free and easy to use. You don’t have to spend days familiarizing yourself with a complex computer program; you can start right away.


Only copy-and-paste texts that you have written yourself.


The key combination “Ctrl + c / Ctrl + v” is the enemy of scientific and critical thinking! At least when you insert foreign text modules uncritically and unchanged into your text for sheer convenience.

If you use copy-and-paste for texts, then only for your readers or text modules. For example, from your reading notes archive.


Revise the content of your work.


When your text is ready, that’s great, and you can be happy. But then the work is not finished but continues. You should still check whether you wrote the truth. That is your job for term papers and theses, your examination performance.


To do this, take your text and read it through again. You answer the following question sentence by sentence:


Who says that?


For each statement in the text, check whether it comes from you or someone else. You can still remove one or the other accidental plagiarism.


If you catch yourself plagiarizing yourself, add the relevant literature reference.


Nobody can do this work step for you, neither a roommate nor a lecturer. After all, they don’t know what you’ve read. And you are responsible for your content.


These tips aren’t fancy in any way, and you don’t even have to spend a lot of money to avoid accidental plagiarism or to protect yourself from allegations of plagiarism.


All you need are new ways of looking at reading and writing and new habits that are part of doing academic work.

With this in mind: don’t be a slave trader!