5 Ways Communication Studies and Journalism Students Can Avoid Plagiarism

female writing in a journal on top of laptop

Plagiarism and academic dishonesty are serious matters. Being accused of stealing content can stigmatize a student during his or her time in college, while proof of the charges can lead to failure or even expulsion. It's not an exaggeration to say that plagiarism is something that students want to avoid at all costs.

If you're enrolled in a communication studies program or pursuing a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication, avoiding a charge of plagiarism isn't just about making it through school. Credibility is everything when it comes to careers in communications. Steering clear of plagiarism is therefore more than just a best practice.

For writers, honesty, integrity, and originality will remain a critically high priority during your entire working career. The last thing you want is to develop the bad habit of resorting to plagiarism as a student, and then carry it over into your career. Not only will this practice put your future at risk; you'll be depriving yourself of the full benefits of your education.

Establishing solid practices when it comes to academic honesty is the best way to avoid trouble. Here are five important things to keep in mind.

1. Understand What Is and Isn't Plagiarism

One of the primary pitfalls for students is simply not knowing when they may be committing plagiarism in a school paper or assignment. Copying and pasting someone else's work word-for-word may be the first thing that most people think of, but it's only one of many kinds of plagiarism.

Plagiarism is broadly defined as the intentional – or even accidental – claiming of other people's work as your own, or the failure to adequately cite the sources of information you gathered externally. Your school and instructors may have more specific plagiarism policies in place that you have to adhere to.

2. Don't Just Paraphrase

While directly lifting text is perhaps the most obvious form of plagiarism, don't assume you're in the clear if you simply paraphrase someone else's point. Material doesn't have to be copied exactly in order to count as plagiarism. Remember, a good rule of thumb is that if the information – not just the words – came from somewhere else, you should cite the source.

3. Attribute Correctly

In order to avoid the appearance of passing off someone else's work or ideas as your own, you'll need to cite your sources correctly. The specifics of how and what you cite will depend on what citation style you're following, but generally the requirements include identifying information like the title, author, publisher, and date of publication. If your school doesn't follow a specific citation style, instructors will often let you know their preference. The key is not only attributing information to its source, but also doing it correctly and consistently.

4. When in Doubt, Cite Your Sources

Rather than agonize over whether or not to cite an outside source, the safest course of action to avoid a charge of plagiarism is simply to go ahead and cite it. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to attributing information contained in your work. If you're unsure about whether to cite, you can also ask your instructor before turning in your assignment. This strategy can help you avoid answering a subsequent charge of plagiarism while also showing your instructor that you value academic honesty and want to do the right thing.

5. Hold Yourself to a High Standard

As a journalist or a communications professional, you'll have high standards of conduct to live up to. With credibility as the most valuable currency, you'll only be as successful as you are trustworthy. Whether it's your readers, viewers, employer, or clients, people will be counting on you to honor the ethical code of your profession. The best way to ensure that you're up for the task is by holding yourself to the same high standard while you're still in school. That way, honesty and integrity will come more naturally when you embark on your career.

One thing to always remember about plagiarism is that it's 100 percent avoidable. In fact, avoiding plagiarism in the first place is much easier and infinitely less unpleasant than having to face a charge of academic dishonesty. With so much on the line – both while you're in school and later when you start your career – steering clear of plagiarism is a no-brainer habit you should start practicing now.

 

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Written by Ashford University staff

 

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