There are several important steps you can take to ensure your engineering paper or other academic work is original and free of plagiarism. First and foremost, it is critical that all of the work you submit under your name is entirely your own original work. While discussing concepts and ideas with others is encouraged, directly copying or paraphrasing significant portions of text from another source without proper citation is considered academic dishonesty and plagiarism. To avoid accidentally plagiarizing the work of others, here are some key best practices to follow:
Perform thorough research. Before beginning to write, invest time researching your topic from a variety of high-quality sources. Make notes of key facts, figures, and relevant quotes or passages, but do not copy significant verbatim text. Having a broad base of research helps ensure you understand the topic well and can discuss it in your own words rather than relying too heavily on any single source. It also minimizes the risk of unintentionally copying phrasing unique to another work.
Properly cite all sources. As you write your paper, cite all factual information, statistics, concepts or direct quotes that are not your own original ideas using an appropriate citation style such as MLA, APA or IEEE. In-text citations linking back to a numbered reference list prevent plagiarism by attributing others’ work and allowing readers to easily find your sources. It is critical all factual claims are supported with citations and your own analysis or conclusions are clearly separated from referenced material.
Paraphrase effectively. If discussing a concept or piece of information from your research sources, paraphrase by putting it into your own words rather than copying word-for-word. Changing a few words here or there but retaining the essential sentence structure or unique phrasing can still constitute plagiarism. When paraphrasing, change up the sentence structure and be sure to use your own vocabulary as much as possible. A paraphrase should read as though written in your own voice.
Avoid mosaic plagiarism. Piecing together phrases or sentences from multiple sources to construct new paragraphs without proper citation or transitions can also fall under plagiarism, called “mosaic” plagiarism. Make sure to process information from your research through your own understanding before including it in your work. Weave sources together with your own analysis and writing rather than copying text.
Use citation management software. Reference managers like Zotero, Mendeley or EndNote make it easy to build a library of sources as you research, taking the headache out of citations. They allow you to insert in-text cites with a click and automatically generate reference lists, reducing chances of citation errors. Many also have Microsoft Word plugins that check papers for accidental plagiarism.
Get format and style guidance. Thoroughly review your department and professors’ guidelines for acceptable formatting and citation practices for assignments. Strict adherence to discipline-specific style guides like the ASME Style Guide helps demonstrate your understanding of proper academic writing conventions. Ask instructors for examples of well-formatted engineering papers if needed. Make sure your paper follows all prescribed formatting and submission rules to avoid claims of misconduct.
Use plagiarism checking tools. Before submission, run your paper through online plagiarism-checking services like Turnitin or Grammarly. These will compare your writing to their databases of web content and academic papers, flagging any sections that closely match other sources but are not properly cited or quoted. Carefully review any matches to ensure no inadvertent plagiarism exists. You may need to further paraphrase or cite if significant portions are flagged. Understanding why sections were flagged helps reinforce lessons to avoid it in future work.
Request feedback from others. Have a classmate or tutor read over your paper to get an outside perspective on flow and organization before finalizing. An extra pair of eyes may catch citation errors, over-paraphrased sections or other issues you missed due to close familiarity with the subject matter. Be sure to allow adequate time for multiple drafts, reviews and revisions prior to deadlines to proactively address and correct any problems. Positive feedback further confirms a lack of plagiarism concerns.
Originality, proper citing, avoiding direct copying from sources, using tools to check your work and requesting feedback are key methods to demonstrate your engineering paper meets academic integrity standards and avoids plagiarism issues. With diligent research practices, appropriate paraphrasing and cited sourcing of all non-original information, you can rest assured your work is fully your own and represents your command of the subject matter. Let me know if any part of the process needs further clarification or explanation.