What Are Citations And How To Avoid Plagiarism

Do you get a 40% similarity index despite paraphrasing everything? Don’t worry, in this post, we’ll explain how to cite and how to avoid plagiarism in your next research paper or assignment.

Before we delve into the intricacies, we should know what plagiarism means. Plagiarism refers to copying someone else’s work without giving them due credit. What is commonly understood, as a basic rule to avoid plagiarism, is to cite the article that you are using as a source or reference it in your article or paper. Now, an obvious question arises- what are citations?

Citations- What are they?

The purpose of research is to cover a new area, or a new perspective in an already covered subject, or finding sources/authorities to substantiate your arguments. However, as mentioned before, it is mandatory to avoid plagiarism while referring to the researched sources. Well, citations can be understood as a tool to avoid plagiarism. It basically involves documenting the sources which you have referred to while writing your article/paper.

There are many methods or styles of citation which are used for different purposes. For example, OSCOLA and Bluebook are mostly used by law students. APA is used by people engaged in sociology or psychology. Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) is used by foreign universities for business, history, etc.

A bonus tip: Even if you copy-paste someone’s work and cite it properly, it still is plagiarised simply because it’s not your work.

As stated before, there is no point in writing your research paper without your analysis. Research is a passionate field, used to develop laws and impact society, so we recommend that you take it seriously.


Choose the right method of citation

Before citing, pick the method of citation. If you are submitting a project, see which is the prescribed citation method and use only that particular method with uniformity. If you are submitting a paper to a journal or conference, look at the submission guidelines. They usually specify which edition to use.

For example, the instructions may require you to use the 20th edition of Bluebook (see: Bluebook 20th Ed. – Cheat Sheet in order to know how to cite in Bluebook) or OSCOLA as the method of citation. (see: OSCOLA 4th Ed. – Cheat Sheet in order to know how to cite in OSCOLA in an easy-to-understand format!)

Pick and choose what to cite

You don’t need to cite if you’ve used one word from a site or you’ve referred to your class notes from a subject learnt in class. Cite relevant parts like quotes by judges, statistics by government organisations like NCW, NHRC, etc.

You don’t need to cite empirical research. Check out this article for more information on various types of research methods- Methods and Types of Legal Research For Writing Research Papers.

How to cite

There are 2 ways to cite- You can cite sources either while writing your paper or after it. Citing during the paper ensures you don’t miss any citations. But if you are more comfortable doing it after writing your paper to avoid losing focus, you can write down your sources somewhere else and then cite them after writing, so that you don’t miss citations this way either. A common mistake students use is to copy-paste links of websites, instead of citing them in the proper formats. (you may refer to MS Word Shortcuts for shortcuts to insert citations.)


Do not use free online plagiarism tools

They often don’t detect similarity even if you just shuffle a few words here and there, hence making them unreliable. Instead, use a paid service like Turnitin.

Worried that it might cost a lot? No issues! Most universities or organisations already have a subscription, so you can get it for free. Another option is to gather 60 people together (eg. your section) and get 1 subscription together. That way, the cost will be very minimal per person.

Do not use inconsistent formats

Formats for all types of citation methods are used online. Do not use OSCOLA for one footnote and Bluebook for another.

Self-plagiarism is also not permissible

That means you cannot copy content from something you had published earlier. It is, however, okay if you use part of an unpublished draft for an expansion of the paper you are writing.

If you are unsure whether you can use your previously published work due to the absence of a copyright policy, please check with the organisation under which you have published it. For example, blogs on legal websites might be ambiguous as to whether or not you can reuse that content.

Do not copy the sources of another person’s research paper

There is a trick that students often use wherein they copy the sources of Wikipedia instead of copying from Wikipedia itself. A lot of teachers and reviewers at paper presentation conferences know about this trick, so do not risk losing marks unnecessarily by doing this.

Do not list sources you have not used

To save time and to make their work ‘look’ more authoritative, students often just take sources of a random site and cite them in their work. This is an unethical practice and it may result in unfavourable consequences if you’re caught.

Students are not educated about the relevance of citations and plagiarism as they should be. Now that you have adequate knowledge about the same, please make sure you follow the requisites of citing a source immaculately and make your next work more reliable and legitimate.

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