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Avoiding Plagiarism When Writing A Literature Review

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Avoiding Plagiarism When Writing A Literature Review

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism refers to the unethical taking of words, creations, ideas or theories of another person and using them in one’s writing. It can be deliberate or inadvertent and can pose an intellectual offense. Plagiarism together with student cheating and academic integrity are serious issues of utmost concern to university students especially when it comes to writing a literature review. It can cause undesirable consequences such as loss of author credibility and paper retractions which can make one fail an assignment. Researchers, therefore, need to intensify their understanding about plagiarism and its consequences.

Avoiding plagiarism when writing a literature review

• Use paraphrasing

Paraphrasing refers to writing the ideas of another author by using different words but not changing the meaning. A writer can paraphrase when referencing passages that are long and can’t be quoted. A writer can paraphrase to support their arguments or show their knowledge about a topic. When paraphrasing, one should not use quotation marks. It is also advisable to use shorter words that the ones in the original work. However, it is not recommended to paraphrase by mixing one’s own words with those contained in the original text. Any use of original text should be quoted separately. Synonyms, change of sentences and word order are some of the techniques to use when paraphrasing.

• Use proper referencing

Referencing refers to acknowledging the sources that one have used in the writing of their literature review. It is critical when avoiding plagiarism as it allows the reader to quickly access the source documents for verification. A student writing a literature review must understand the referencing required by their department before citing. To reference correctly, one may need to note down the full details of the author, title, and date of their material. By referencing, one adds weight to their arguments and comments. It also demonstrates that one has read widely, analyzed and even considered past research.

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Additionally, writers should properly identify what’s relevant and what’s not when citing. Scientific evidence that one gathers when doing their tests should not be cited. Similarly, facts and common knowledge don’t require any citation. However, if one is unsure, then they can use a reference. Citation software like EndNote and Reference Manager are essential when managing citations.

• Quote

Quoting means writing the works of another by using the exact words. One can quote to refer to a short passage in the original content or to show their knowledge of other opinions based on their topic of interest. People also quote when they want to support their arguments. When quoting, writers should retain the original sentence structure. A black quote is recommended when using a quotation of more than three lines. Again, when writing short notes, one can highlight in color any direct quotations they want to use in their literature review writing. Quoting ought to be done correctly to avoid allegations related to plagiarism. Be sure that no one would like to be misquoted.

• Use online plagiarism checkers

There are several plagiarism checking tools and software to use when avoiding inadvertent plagiarism. Some of them include iThenticate, eTHBLAST and more. Some of the plagiarism software are paid while others are offered for free. A writer should dedicate some of their time to check plagiarism in their final draft before submitting for marking.

• Use reliable sources

One can still be accused of plagiarism when they use unreliable sources. The torrent of information that is available online can be overwhelming. Sometimes one can write incorrect information that is not trustworthy. To overcome this, it is good to utilize one’s time by doing proper research before writing a literature review.

• Learn to summarize

Summary or short version is a clever way of overcoming plagiarism and its dangers. A writer or editor can summarize their key findings based on a specific source. When summarizing, it is good to use one’s own words and cite it properly. Though summary can help one to avoid plagiarism, it may not present all the examples like when paraphrasing.


Editing one’s work carefully and checking for plagiarism is a prerequisite before making any work submission. It is not good to take chances by not checking plagiarism no matter the writing one is doing as it can result in loss of one’s academic or professional career. Listed above are some ways on how to avoid plagiarism when writing a literature review and any other piece of work.