How to avoid plagiarism

Avoiding plagiarism is easy! When you use an idea, some words or a whole paragraph from someone else you must credit the original author.

Take the following three steps to avoid all plagiarism in your paper:

  1. Paraphrase or quote the original text
  2. Credit the original author in the text and reference list
  3. Use a plagiarism checker

Paraphrase or quote to avoid plagiarism

To share the ideas of others, you must either paraphrase or quote the original text. In order to avoid plagiarism you must also add a citation to the quoted or paraphrased section. More about that later in the article.


Paraphrasing means using your own words to explain or tell something. The example below shows a paraphrased piece of text. For better understanding, read the original paragraph.

More than 150 Russian diplomats were expelled from over two dozen nations following the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei V. Skripal in early March 2018. Skripal and his daughter both survived the toxic nerve-agent attack that sparked a confrontation between Russia and the West (Schwirtz and Barry, 2018, para. 3).

  • The text has been rewritten in your own words as much as possible
  • The correct citation is included


Quoting means literally copying a piece of text instead of rewording it. The example below shows an example.

Every description of the scene of an event or of the position of an object in space is based on the specification of the point on a rigid body (body of reference) with which that event or object coincides (Einstein, 1920, pp. 5–6).

  • The text is copied word-for-word from the original
  • Quotation marks are used
  • The correct citation is included

Paraphrasing vs. quoting

In general, paraphrasing is better than quoting as it shows the reader that you truly understand the original source. It also provides you with the opportunity to exclude irrelevant information. You should only use quotes when:

  • You are using an exact definition introduced by the original author
  • It is impossible for you to rephrase the original piece without losing its meaning
  • You want to maintain the authority of the author’s words

Credit the original author to avoid plagiarism

Every time you use someone else’s ideas or words (unless it is common knowledge) you must include both an in-text citation (or footnote citation) and a full-length reference in the reference list at the end of the paper to avoid plagiarism.

Example or in-text citation (in APA style):

Research shows that there is a great need for … (Reynolds & Thomas, 2014)

Example of reference list entry (in APA style):

Reynolds, R.S., & Thomas, A.H. (1998). Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (3th ed.). New York, NY: Free Press

These citations help the readers of your paper identify the original author(s) and locate the original source by providing helpful information, such as a book title, a website URL or a publisher name. To help you correctly cite sources, you can use citation generators such as the free APA Reference Generator.

The formatting of your in-text citations and reference page will depend on the citation style you use – for example, APA citation style, MLA citation style or Chicago. If you’re not sure which style to use, you can use our guide to citation styles.

Use a plagiarism checker to avoid plagiarism

Most universities use plagiarism checkers to detect plagiarism in student’ papers. You can use one as well before you submit your paper to your supervisor. This is one of the best ways to avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism technology scans your document and highlights the passages of text that are detected as potential instances of plagiarism.

There are clear differences in accuracy and safety between plagiarism checkers. Therefore we’ve created two comparisons:

  1. Best plagiarism checker comparison (free and paid checks)
  2. Free plagiarism checker comparison (only free checks)

Frequently asked questions about avoiding plagiarism

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Raimo Streefkerk

Raimo is an expert in explaining plagiarism and citing sources. He has been writing helpful articles since 2017 and is continuously improving Scribbr's Citation Generators.

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