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  • How to Avoid Plagiarism: Writing Strategies

    Bad idea. Don't plagiarize, ever.

    Writing Strategies

    Good writing incorporates your thoughts and opinions with others' thoughts and opinions that are already published. Sometimes it is challenging but you can help advance topics in your discipline or society in general with your original content; you create and maintain a credibility and reliability by using others' work as a basis for yours and giving them their credit.

    On this page, we discuss some strategies to use when conducting research so you can avoid plagiarism.

    Direct Quotes

    What is it?

    It is the only instance of copying and pasting permitted. Sometimes you may find a sentence in a source that is so good, it is better to leave it the way it is. MIT's Academic Integrity Handbook recommends using direct quotes in one of three situations:

    1. "When the language is particularly vivid or expressive.
    2. "When exact wording is needed for technical accuracy.
    3. "When the words of an important authority lend weight to an argument."

    MIT's Handbook recommends including these three things each time you use a direct quote in your work:

    1. "Name the source in an introductory phrase.
    2. "Use quotation marks or indent long quotations.
    3. "Cite the source appropriately."

    If you forget to include all of these components, you are plagiarizing.

    Need an example?

    Click this link to view this excellent example from MIT's Academic Integrity Handbook.


    "Avoiding Plagiarism - Quoting." Academic Integrity at MIT - A Handbook for Students, 2020,, Access 10 March 2022.


    What is it?

    Basically, you write your interpretation of a source's content while keeping the original meaning and not copying it word for word. It is a good practice of research to paraphrase what you find rather than using direct quotes all the time. MIT's Academic Integrity Handbook offers a few strategies for how to write paraphrases:

    1. "Use synonyms for all words that are not generic. Words like world, food, or science are so basic to our vocabulary that is difficult to find a synonym.
    2. "Change the structure of the sentence.
    3. "Change the voice from active to passive and vice versa.
    4. "Change clauses to phrases and vice versa.
    5. "Change parts of speech."

    MIT's Handbook offers this last piece of advice: "A good paraphrase combines a number of strategies: the goal is to rephrase the information so that it appears in your words, not those of the author."

    Need an example? 

    Click this link to view these excellent examples from MIT's Academic Integrity Handbook.


    "Avoiding Plagiarism - Paraphrasing." Academic Integrity at MIT - A Handbook for Students, 2020,, Access 10 March 2022.


    What is it?

    Summaries are short recaps about content, usually ranging in length from one sentence to one paragraph. Summaries are basically abbreviated paragraphs, papers, books, etc. A summary's length typically depends on the content for how long a summary is. They are similar to abstracts of articles or books. It is a good practice of research to summarize findings.

    MIT's Academic Integrity Handbook offers a few tips for what to include in a good summary:

    1. "[Identify] the writer of the original text.
    2. "[Synthesize] the writer's key ideas.
    3. "[Present] the information neutrally."

    Summaries differ from paraphrases because paraphrases typically have similar word counts to the original thought, whereas summaries have a lower word count.

    Need an example?

    Click this link to view this excellent example from MIT's Academic Integrity Handbook.


    "Summarizing." Academic Integrity at MIT - A Handbook for Students, 2020,, Access 10 March 2022.

    Take Good Notes

    Unfortunately, many plagiarism cases happen from bad note-taking. Bad note-taking often involves copying whole sentences or other thoughts from a source and forgetting to put quotation marks around it. Sometimes writers also forget to include where they found a quote, so they may end up thinking that quote is their interpretation of the content. In both cases, this is a form of plagiarism that can easily be avoided.

    MIT's Academic Integrity Handbooks offers a few strategies for good note-taking:

    • "Use a program like RefWorks or EndNote to keep track of your citations.
    • "Write down the author, title, and page number of each source every time you quote directly, paraphrase, or jot down useful facts and figures.
    • "Paraphrase accurately.
    • "Keep a running list of all sources:  articles, books, online sources and their URLs."


    "Taking Careful Notes." Academic Integrity at MIT - A Handbook for Students, 2020, Accessed 10 March 2022.