Have you ever asked yourself why you feel anxious about writing assignments? Is it a lack of confidence in your ability to fulfill all the requirements? Or the extreme difficulty of expressing your thoughts to avoid plagiarism? If your answer is both, then this post will help you overcome this fear.
Here are four tips to help you write more confidently, convey your ideas and avoid plagiarism.
#1 Understand What’s Expected
Start with the assignment instructions and grading criteria. The list below outlines some considerations to keep in mind. If anything is unclear, connect with your instructor early on.
- What are the assignment goals: to demonstrate knowledge of the topic, support a statement, summarize key points, etc.
- What evaluation criteria/rubric will be taken into account
- Essay length, format, and citation style
- Recommended sources to use when writing and what they should be like
- How much quoted material is allowed
- Possibility of incorporating your previous work
- If you want a helping hand, who can connect with for writing advice
#2 Collect Credible Sources
Once you clearly understand what’s expected from you, it’s time to start researching the topic and make a list of credible sources for your paper.
Why do credible sources matter so much? First, with unreliable sources, you run the risk of making wrong assumptions and weak statements. Unreliable sources may also not cite other sources properly. Some tend to just copy and paste chunks of text. As a result, you may end up using already plagiarized materials and undermining the credibility of your paper.
So, how can you find credible sources? Here’re some ideas:
- Domain names. Highly credible sources usually have .edu, .gov, and .ac extensions. But be mindful, some organizations own .edu websites to mislead you, so you’d better take a closer look at the website before including it in a bibliography.
- Articles should contain titles, dates, and author names. Take a minute or two to Google the author’s name and make sure this is a reputable person publishing works elsewhere on the academic/educational platforms.
- Credible sources use other trusted materials to back up their ideas, so check what other sources they link out to.
- The overall look and feel of the website should be clear of spammy banners, targeted ads, blurred pictures, and other clickbait content.
To make searches a bit easier for you, we suggest using academic databases like Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, ResearchGate, and CORE
#3 Make Notes, Plan, and Structure Efficiently
This is one of the most important strategies to avoid plagiarism well in advance. Planning and documenting as you go along will save you a lot of work and stress at the end. Remember to:
- Keep track of each and every source you want to include in your essay. Consider using apps that sync devices like EverNote, Google Keep, and Apple Notes.
- Create an essay plan or outline, match sources you’ve collected with every point on the plan, and add your own thoughts. Share the outline with your instructor to get their input and guidance early on.
- Ensure you have more to say than to cite. Your instructor wants to hear your ideas and thoughts, not read a list of quoted material. Think about what you want to say, and align the quotes to support it.
Also see: preventing plagiarism when writing
#4 When In Doubt, Cite
You’ve been told many times that plagiarism is wrong and should be avoided at all costs. But sometimes it’s hard to tell when you’ve used enough of your own words and original ideas that citations are no longer needed. Thankfully, there are apps like Draft Coach that can help you identify matches between your writing and other sources and provide tips on how to make edits before handing in your work. If you don’t have Draft Coach, consider citing to be on the safe side. The last thing you want is to commit plagiarism inadvertently.
When you approach your assignment with these four foolproof tips in mind, you’ll find it easier to get your original words down on paper and protect yourself from accidental plagiarism with properly cited sources and quotes. Tackling that assignment will be easier than you ever expected.