If you are new to academic writing and/or the English language, you might feel overwhelmed by the strict plagiarism guidelines imposed by your school or university. You may worry that you could steal or plagiarize the work of others without even knowing it, risking your academic standing and future career.
The good news is that most teachers and professors recognize the difference between honest mistakes and intentional plagiarism. Knowing how to avoid plagiarism in academic writing will save you time and effort; you won't run the risk of having to rewrite your essay from scratch if you eliminate this risk immediately.
If you've gone through this checklist and think you may have plagiarized a portion of your essay but aren't sure, the best next step is to follow up with your teacher or professor directly. This is why it's important to start working on your essay a significant amount of time before it is due and not the night before. Following up with your teacher during their office hours, in class or even over email, if they allow it, is always better than taking a chance on plagiarism.
However, if you've procrastinated writing an assignment and realize it may be partially plagiarized a mere few hours before it is due, do the best you can to rewrite the plagiarized sections. Try to notify your professor of your mistake and ask for an extension so that you can talk with him or her about your last-minute realization, but realize that the fact that you waited so long to bring it up he or she may quite possibly deny your request (imagine if your professor allowed every single student to have an extension)!
Luckily, many English classes allow you to rewrite certain papers after turning them in once. You may get the chance to review your professor's notes and then rewrite it for a "final" grade before the semester ends. If this is the case, do the best you can to rewrite the plagiarized sections and turn in your essay. It's better to have an unorganized but genuine first draft than a first draft that steals from other writers.
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