How to beat any plagiarism testing software in your work
Just the other day, I co-authored a paper on lifelong learning that neither Turnitin nor any other common plagiarism testing software could find a similarity of above 1% . The paper was 11 pages of over 3,500 words long and with over 17 references. The publishers I submitted to were impressed and curious as to how I did it. Today I am feeling generous and will share with you one of the 10 techniques I use when writing for journal submission. Let us conveniently call it the ‘Write before you cite technique’.
Write before you cite technique
Writing before you cite is an expert technique for people who have mastered their field of study so well that they know which knowledge exists and which knowledge is not yet available. Most respected journals like the EANSO Journals must check your work for plagiarism before considering it for publications. Organizers of academic conferences have also followed suit and must pass the work through plagiarism before considering it for inclusion in the proceedings. Plagiarism testing has become mandatory in academics with everything from students’ assignments, project reports and theses being required to pass the test before consideration. Writing before you cite is one of the techniques that will help you pass any plagiarism test there is. This technique follows the following steps:
1. Read as extensive as possible on the desired topic:
This is similar to brainstorming. The aim is to become an expert even if it is temporarily in your topic of interest. Your mind will compile and remember things that are important to you but will not remember the exact wordings that were used by the sources you read the words from. Not remembering the exact wordings is perfect because you will have no way of structuring your work in the same pattern as the sources. It is important to assort your sources as much as possible and read at least ten sources on the topic of interest. By the time you reach the fourth source, you will realize the repetitive pattern in all the sources. For example, no matter how many books you read on genetics, there will always be the same backbone knowledge but with a variation in the delivery.
2. Start writing without any citations or references:
Assume that you are writing a non-academic essay or a story on the topical area. Your mind will automatically come to your rescue by remembering most of the things you brainstormed about. Everyone has a way of thinking that makes their writing unique. This is what you try to exploit to your advantage. Even if 100 people are given the same source to read and summarize without relooking at the source, even if it is a summary of just 100 words, the 100 summaries will definitely be different. The aim therefore is to write from memory the things you remember about what you read about. The lesser you revisit the sources you read while writing the ‘essay’ the more unique your work will be. The main challenge in revisiting your sources is that they will subconsciously influence the pattern of your work to match their pattern. You will find yourself running out of ways to say what you want to say and running to the sources for a hint. This kills the uniqueness in your work.
3. Reread your work and highlight areas that require citation:
You will realize that you have made so many non-academic vague statements and assumptions in your ‘essay’. It is at this stage that you highlight these statements for improvement through citation. Temporally vague statements like ‘a long-time ago’ and spatially vague ones like ‘many countries in the world’ should be highlighted. Quantitative vagueness like ‘all people’ and qualitatively vague words like ‘better than’ should me marked out if necessary. Controversial statements should be highlighted and assumptive ones considered for highlighting as well.
4. Look for citation for the highlighted statements:
For example, you’ll have used the words ‘many people around the world’ instead of the exact statistics. This is the time you insert the statistics and cite your sources. Words like ‘it is believed that’ become ‘according to’ and then add a source. Some people find it hard sometimes to find appropriate sources for their work. But with the domination of the internet, this is not a real problem anymore these days. You can make almost any statement and google or other search engines would give you a source to support the statement. But you obviously have to be scholarly about the sources you settle for if you want your work to be academically respected. Stick to journal articles, reports from respected organizations, scholarly books and respected newspapers as much as possible. You can use non-scholarly sources but not too much because they will obviously affect the integrity of your work.
5. Make sure that you avoid direct quotation by all means:
I do not believe that there is a scenario in your work where you will find a block of text that cannot be paraphrased. Everything can be paraphrased and the best way of doing so is through adopting a reported speech pattern for citing work. If it is definitions that must be worded in a very specific standard way, do not bother defining them. You are better off just pointing your readers to the place such a definition can be found and giving your own understanding of the definition. For expert monodisciplinary fields, do not waste your time on defining terms because most of the people that are going to show interest in your work will probably already know the definition of the terms.
6. Do not cite obvious statements that are in the public domain:
Some authors or supervisors wrongly believe that everything stated in an academic writeup must be cited. You can’t even give a statement like ‘the earth revolves around the sun’ without giving a source for the words. What this does is the it fills your work with irrelevant citations, increases the similarity index and definitely gives reader an impression that you did not contribute any original thoughts towards your work. In fact, some scholars are too obsessed with referencing their work that you find the references section having more word count than the actual work. Some people recommend that there must be at least a reference in every paragraph that you write as a scholar. Whatever works for you is okay but refences are a way of acknowledging sources and supporting your arguments. Do not misuse them because they affect the plagiarism indices for your work.
In almost all of the conferences that I have attended and organized, the question of plagiarism keeps coming up over and over again. I hope that this article will help you avoid being one of the scholars who unknowingly plagiarize copyrighted work. I hope that it shall also help you amaze publishers with very low similarity indices for your work and increase your credibility as a writer and scholar. You can also read on how to get your paper accepted by any journal before you leave.