Recognizing and Avoiding Plagiarism

The following sample English essay is 544 words long, in APA format, and written at the undergraduate level. It has been downloaded 235 times and is available for you to use, free of charge.

Plagiarism, defined as “using another’s work without giving credit,” (University of California, Davis, 2013) is present in the second passage to the extent that the original author’s ideas and writing language are parroted, despite the second author’s attempt to summarize in their own words. The text of the original passage, while not present in its complete form, seems only to have been rearranged when it comes to sentence structure. A prime example could be that the second author simply subtracts words from the first sentence of the original passage: “Doctors, whose first allegiance is supposed to be to their patients, have traditionally stood between drug company researchers and trusting consumers,” becomes “Consumers must trust that the research that has gone into the manufacture of new drugs is safe.” Not only is this plagiarism, but adherence to common ethics is called into question when the writer knowingly uses another's' work.

Considering the lack of originality in any portion of the second passage, one could pick any sentence that would serve the purpose of illustrating what not to do when summarizing an article: “But it is hard to know if a conflict of interest between doctors, researchers, and the drug company stockholders has tainted the results,” could be rephrased as “Unless there is documented incidence of potential conflicts of interest or medical malpractice, it remains an admittedly laborious task to decipher whether any given research results could have been tampered with, and more difficult still to connect such tampering with a single entity or individual.” Additionally, the sentence “Biomedical researchers incorporate strict rules of science into their work, which is examined by peers,” could be changed to something in the vein of “Despite the thorough control measures and meticulous academic peer review employed by nearly all biomedical researchers, results from any given study could nonetheless be inherently flawed.” Furthermore, According to the APA Publication Manual, “Any information that is not common knowledge must be referenced in the text” (American Psychological Association, 2010, P. 176). Were there any sentences that the author felt they could not summarize in a coherent fashion without somehow infringing on the previous authors' intellectual property, they can always use in-text parenthetical citations to denote their intent to give credit where credit is due.

There are a few different ways one can recognize plagiarism, and these techniques can be employed in one’s own writing to avoid any potential scrutiny associated with plagiarizing another author. The first, involves checking to make sure the individual in question did not simply reorganize any existing thoughts or sentences written by a previous author, like our author of the second passage has done. Another way to identify plagiarized work is to make certain the writer did not simply copy and paste passages verbatim from a previous author. Finally, one can identify plagiarism by making certain the parenthetical citations from the given references actually match up to the source; that is, that the main idea from each is present, and that the writer didn’t simply place something on the references page that might look to be legitimately linked to the passage in which they cited it.


Avoiding plagiarism. (n.d.). University of California, Davis. Retrieved from

Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). (2010). Crediting Sources. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.