The world is constantly changing, and so are our beliefs about it. That is why we need to establish an independent mindset and critical thinking to rely on. Originality in our manifestation, including writing, is a crucial part of it. That is why educators and content creators need to check their papers for similarity to avoid plagiarism.
What percentage of plagiarism is acceptable? The question is worth 10.3 billion search results. Well, to those looking for a simple answer: no, there’s no single benchmark. Or could zero plagiarism count? Different universities, colleges, and high schools have different standards. What is good and allowed for one, will be a red flag for another one.
Mostly, no more than 20% of text coincidence can be tolerated, while more means the text is not original. Although, even if that 20% is just a single copy-pasted piece of text, it’s considered borrowed.
What percentage of plagiarism is acceptable in university
How much plagiarism is allowed also depends on the type of the paper. The acceptable percentage varies within the limit of the mentioned 20%. Each case is individual, and the educational institution, the teacher, and the nature of the detected similarities should be taken into account. However, obviously, how much plagiarism is allowed in research paper differs when we talk about a regular essay or a dissertation.
Type of content
What percentage of plagiarism is acceptable
General academic writing
Thesis and dissertations
One should keep in mind that the similarities found may be unintentional plagiarism. It happens that the students accidentally copy someone else’s ideas out of pure coincidence or based on the resources they have studied without realizing they are repeating the information.
That’s why if you notice plagiarism in your student’s work, it’s time to talk to them, figure out the reasons, and map the possible ways out. To help you do this, we’ve prepared a checklist you can share with your students. You can send it to them the way it is, or use it as an inspiration to create your own one—it’s up to you.
A Comprehensive Checklist on How to Avoid Plagiarism
The obvious answer is to produce original content. But cases might differ, so check out a few tips to polish your writing.
#1. Avoid Direct Quotes and Paraphrasing
First, say your goodbyes to copy-pasting or rephrasing someone else’s thoughts. Instead, read different sources of information on your topic, jot down key points, and then write their essence in your own words. Examples:
|According to NASA, “Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s surface observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere.”||Global warming is the term used to describe the gradually raising temperature because of burning coal, oil, gas, and some other natural gases, like methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor. They create an additional layer in the Earth’s atmosphere that traps the heat and causes the “greenhouse effect.”|
#2. Proper referencing
Oh, the favorite part, we know. With all those formatting styles driving you mad, citing the sources might be the most boring and difficult part of your academic assignment. Yet, it’s inevitable to differentiate your work and someone else’s research you studied to support your claims. To make your life easier a bit, the Purdue University systematized guides on each popular citation style: MLA, APA, Chicago, AMA, ASA, and IEEE. If you still find those difficult to figure out, you can try using a citation machine instead. All you need to do is to choose the necessary style, specify the type of source, fill out relevant fields, and copy-paste the result. For instance, here’s how it helped to cite a source in the APA citation format: National Geographic Society. (2023, February 6). Global Warming. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/global-warming #3. Proofreading
To err is human. Spotting and fixing the mistakes (and learning from them) can make you superhuman. Double-checking the text can enable you to find those “Oh, I’ve already read it somewhere” parts. Here, I mean that sometimes you can mimic your own style, even not knowing that. Reviewing the same content after a while can help you have a fresh look at it and find those self-plagiarized sentences or paragraphs. It can also allow you to discover tricky referencing issues when you might have missed citing something properly. In case you don’t trust yourself, ask one of your mates to review your paper.
#4. Enriching vocabulary to avoid clichés
Another common reason for plagiarism is using the same phrases you can come across on thousands of websites. It’s not about some industry-specific terms you might desperately need in your physics, nursing, marketing, or any other assignment. I mean rather generic phrases and idioms like “as easy as a pie,” “sky’s the limit,” “sad but true,” etc. Not to mention some of them might be inappropriate for academic writing, if you overuse them, they’ll drop your content originality. To avoid that, we recommend:
- Reading more books, scientific journals, and so on to expand your general knowledge and vocabulary, as a result.
- Jotting down new words and phrases you haven’t known before and trying to use them in your speaking or writing. If applicable, of course.
- Using synonyms to eliminate tautology. You can find some good ones in the Thesaurus, or Power Thesaurus. Feel free to use those tools whenever you see some repeated words or idioms.
#5. Scanning texts with plagiarism checkers
To be on the safe side, I would advise checking your paper with specialized tools, like PlagiarismCheck.org before submitting it. This will help you make sure you’ve produced an original piece of content. A huge plus of such tools is that they can define all possible types of plagiarism, including copying your own style. For example, PlagiarismCheck.org delivers a report with highlights of the matching parts and links to the sources those pieces of text come from.
Let’s wrap it up
If we come back to our initial question: “How much plagiarism is allowed?”, the answer is still “None in a perfect world.” Yet, we live in reality, so up to 20% might be tolerated. We suggest minimizing even those numbers by educating your students on how to produce unique content.
Anyways, if you need to scan submitted papers for plagiarism, try PlagiarismCheck.org. We’ve built it with academic integrity in mind, and it can even spot AI and ghostwriting by comparing student’s writing style from previous works and the current ones. And if you have any questions—be sure to get in touch with our team.