Whether you're a content writer, student, journalist or professional, being able to ensure originality in your work and sidestep plagiarism is becoming a major challenge. With the availability of so much information at our fingertips and especially with AI, writing with integrity and originality means taking proactive steps to check for and avoid plagiarism.
In this article, we're going to give you a step-by-step guide on how to check for plagiarism in articles and other types of content.
Although it's often used as a broad, blanket term to mean copying and pasting someone else's text and trying to pass it off as your own, plagiarism goes much deeper. Of course, it includes direct plagiarism (also known as verbatim plagiarism), which is copying text word-for-word without citing the author or using quotation marks. But did you know that there are other types of plagiarism as well?
There's mosaic plagiarism, where you use phrases or sentences from one or more sources in your work without citing them. And when you do this with multiple sources, it's often called patchwork plagiarism, which occurs when you copy sections of text from multiple sources, rearrange them, and try to pass it off as original content. There's even accidental plagiarism, which is often the case when you plagiarize yourself!
And if you use AI-generated content, you need to be extra careful about plagiarism. With so many different AI writing tools around these days, you never know if they're coming up with 100% original content.
What Happens When You Plagiarize?
Plagiarism has wide-reaching consequences that can vary depending on your industry. Whether you're worried about copyright infringement, penalties for academic dishonesty, or upholding journalistic ethics, plagiarizing content can eat away at an individual's integrity and credibility.
For these reasons, it's crucial to check for plagiarism at every stage of your writing and publication process – not just when the work is done.
How to Check for Plagiarism in Articles and Other Types of Content
If you want to avoid any plagiarism issues with your content, simply follow the steps below.
Step 1: Before You Write a Single Word…
As you work out the outline of your content and start to write, remember that you yourself are brimming with information and ideas. So, work to express the idea or information in your own words or from your own perspective.
But if you do need to quote an expert on a topic, then be sure to use quotation marks and cite the source. If you're writing an academic paper or a paper for publication, use the formatting (such as MLA or APA) suggested by your professor, university or editor.
To help keep you organized, we also recommend using an online tool like Mendeley or Zotero to collect and organize citations. This will help you avoid the pitfall of accidentally plagiarizing someone else's work.
Step 2: Read Through Your Work Yourself
Although it may be tempting to jump right to a plagiarism tool to double-check your work, it's always a good idea to look it over with your own two eyes first. Besides, you never know what else you may catch during your plagiarism search!
You'll want to pay special attention to quotations, and make sure that they're properly cited. And if you have rephrased someone else's idea or content, make sure that your version is considerably different than theirs. Remember, even unintentional plagiarism can have consequences.
If you find yourself unable to focus during your check, don't be afraid to step away from your content, rest, and come back to it with fresh eyes. You may even want to let a colleague look it over. It's entirely possible to catch things that may have been overlooked the first time.
Then, and only then, is it time to turn to technology - at least, after you do your research. While they may claim to have similar effects, not plagiarism detection tools are created equal. So if you really want to avoid the potential consequences of plagiarism, it's important to get it right the first time.
Step 3: Use a Plagiarism Checker
When deciding on the best online plagiarism checker, it's a good idea to choose one that can check a wide range of databases for the most accurate results. After all, if you want to ensure that you have some truly original content on your hands, then you need to consider as many sources as possible.
Next, you'll need to think about what you want to get out of your plagiarism detection software. Are you just looking for a similarity percentage that tells you how similar your content is to others online? Or a detailed plagiarism report that goes a step further and highlights any potential sources of duplicate content that need to be corrected? If it's the latter, then the average free plagiarism checker tool won't do - you need something like Originality.AI's tool.
Unlike more basic scanners, Originality.AI's accurate plagiarism checker leverages a wide range of both free and paid content databases, including academic journals, research studies, and other specific databases. This allows for a more comprehensive plagiarism check beyond what a free plagiarism detection tool can offer. And when it's done scanning your content, it will calculate your plagiarism score and provide you with exactly what you need to change in its plagiarism report.
When it comes to your plagiarism or similarity score, the higher the percentage, the more likely the text is plagiarized. You can then refer to the highlighted sections to find the text that matches - or is at least highly similar to - other sources.
Now, it's important to note that this doesn't necessarily mean that you've plagiarized those other sources. Highlights are fairly common, especially if you're using well-known idioms or other types of writing that occur more frequently.
Therefore, you'll want to go through each one of these highlighted sections individually and verify them against your list of sources. Again, make sure that any citations you've made are correctly identified, and that any paraphrasing goes beyond changing a word or two. Remember, even accidental plagiarism is still plagiarism, so be sure to cover your bases.
Step 4: Addressing Plagiarism Flags
If the plagiarism scanner has flagged a section as plagiarism, your next step is to look at ways that you can rewrite it in your own words. The key is to take the underlying idea and share your own unique perspective on it. Don't hesitate to restructure sentences and the flow of words and language to maintain the original meaning.
Again, avoiding plagiarism means more than just changing a few words. If you end up slightly restructuring the sentence, you'll still have to credit the original source. And don't think you can use paraphrasing tools to sidestep or “trick” the plagiarism detector - while it may fly under the radar of more basic tools, Originality.AI's scanner can detect paraphrasing too.
Step 5: Run the Plagiarism Check Again
Once you've made revisions, it's time to run the plagiarism checker again. The most important thing to remember here is to recheck the document using the same plagiarism detector.
While it may be tempting to use a different tool to get different results, it really isn't in your best interest. Sure, something a little more basic may calculate a lower similarity score. But this may be because it can't detect subtle instances of paraphrasing or patchwork plagiarism, or it doesn't pull from the same number of databases.
So, if you've found an accurate online plagiarism detector that provides comprehensive reports, stick with it! By using and familiarizing yourself with the results from a quality tool, you may end up improving your writing in the long run.
Step 6: Learn From the Experience
You can learn a great deal from checking your work for plagiarism. So, once you've received your detailed report, be sure to reflect on what you've written, especially any points that were flagged as potential plagiarism. What went wrong? Did you try to paraphrase? Did you simply forget to cite the work? Or did you rely too much on direct quotes? When you take the time to understand your writing patterns and habits, you can avoid running into similar issues in the future.
Plus, checking your work for plagiarism also reinforces the importance of taking proper notes and distinguishing between your own ideas and information from other sources. That's why it's such a good idea to use a system to organize, catalog and track citations as you do your research and writing, as it can help you avoid many instances of plagiarism.
Step 7: Improve and Practice
It doesn't matter if you're doing some academic writing, blog posts, or news articles - if you want to avoid the consequences of plagiarism, it's essential to ensure that you're delivering unique, original content. So, to improve your skills, consider regularly practicing how to summarize and paraphrase texts. This will make it that much easier to articulate things in your own words.
No matter why you're checking for plagiarism, it's important to remember that it's not just about following the rules, but also respecting the work of others. By taking steps to avoid plagiarism in your own writing, you're contributing to the integrity, credibility and creativity of writers and content creators, as well as the industries they serve.