How to avoid plagiarism in a PhD dissertation

This is a very serious subject. Plagiarism, as you probably know, is taking somebody else's work and passing it off as your own. There are serious consequences for people who do this. You would be crazy to think that because your dissertation will simply be read by a handful of academics that they are not likely to detect where you may have committed plagiarism. The problem here is that there is now computer software available which in terms of finding plagiarism is enormously smart. You might be able to trick your professor but you won't trick the software.

And when it comes to writing a PhD dissertation, again as you know this is a major academic undertaking, you are seriously risking failing your PhD dissertation and even being expelled from the educational institution if you are found guilty of having used plagiarized material. So the question is, how can you avoid using plagiarism?

Know the rules

It's just as important to know that you are perfectly entitled, and it is quite legal to do so, to use other people's material in your PhD dissertation. In fact you are even encouraged to do so. There are many people out there who have written wise words on the topic of your PhD. Their wise words can reinforce the approach you take to the topic. There are passages written by other people which will seriously improve the value and presentation of your dissertation. By all means use these passages.

But this is where the game changes. You only use a relatively small amount of material written by other people and you fully and accurately add the proper reference citation. You clearly indicate in your dissertation that the passage marked as such and such was written by a particular author or authors and you obtained this material from the following resource. And here of course you list the book or article, its publication date and publisher.

Use the software

The beauty of much of today's plagiarism checking software is that it is freely available to anyone who wishes to use it. You can go online and place a passage or part of your thesis in this software and it will tell you if it is located elsewhere. So you can do your own checking. It is fairly unlikely that you will have verbatim written material which is already published by somebody else. But to give yourself peace of mind, use this software to check on your own PhD dissertation.

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