Plagiarism versus Originality: Causes and Solutions

Plagiarism versus Originality: Causes and Solutions

By Dr Lonny Ness

Originality is how unique one’s writing is. In academic circles, this is known as having your own “voice”. Originality is measured by the similarity score, between 0 and 100, with 100 meaning 100% similarity – meaning that the writing was completely copied from another source, or sources, which is not good and should be avoided. Many schools now integrate the plagiarism checkers into classrooms to help stave off this avalanche of students cheating.

Common software used to check for originality (and plagiarism) by universities are Turnitin ( and SafeAssign (a service of the learning management system – BlackBoard), as well as others. These are typically integrated into designated assignments, but can also be used by both professors and students to check similarity scores and sources – either in draft or final mode, with the latter adding the paper to the repository for subsequent use in checking future submissions.

As scholarly writers, we tend to focus on plagiarism – using your own or someone else's work without proper attribution (i.e., reference + citation). However, plagiarism isn’t the only writing offense! Less egregious, but equally frowned upon is having a high similarity score – meaning, whether cited, or not, someone else's words are being used. If not cited, then that’s plagiarism; however, if cited (which most are), then it is simply not your own work and is considered subpar for academic writing.

The penalty for plagiarism is typically a failing grade for the assignment after the first offense, with possible expulsion from the program for repeated offenses. Conversely, the penalty for high similarity (typically over 20%), can result in a grading deduction – up to a failing grade for the specific assignment.

Here are some steps to take to help avoid plagiarism and to improve originality:

  • Cite EVERYTHING! Ensure that EVERY assertation and statement of fact is cited. If it is your own opinion or knowledge, say so. Otherwise, provide a citation.
  • Avoid quotes. Paraphrase the work of others in your own words – with citations.
  • Use software and services to check papers prior to submission. Time is critical. Plagiarism and high similarity often result when students do not allow enough time to properly complete assignments/papers.

As mentioned, your university likely offers a similarity/plagiarism-checking tool, but here are some that you can use on your own:

  • Grammarly – Grammarly’s plagiarism checker detects plagiarism in your text and checks for other writing issues
  • Plagiarism Checker Software – This online plagiarism checker guarantees you that it runs a thorough plagiarism test for your content to verify that the content is 100% percent plagiarism free.

Is this something that you would like assistance with?

Contact us today!

Back to blog