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To prevent plagiarism shouldn't copy anyone else's work and call it your own. You can take bits and pieces as long as you cite them in your bibliography. Such as quoting the work.
Even using your own words can be considered plagiarism if you follow the exact same form as the original document. When they say they want something new and unique it also means do not just use your words to say the same thing as someone else. Sometimes a term will be an industry standard and you will have no choice but to use that term or word. In these cases, it is best to quote even small lifts or be very clear as to the source of terms used. In all cases, all sources must be cited, but I am just pointing out this can extend all the way down to a single word at times. A short overview on it that is very nice: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/01/ And you can click the links on the side to learn more.
Good answer @e.mccormick Another thing to consider, and this is especially important in writing college papers, is that you CAN plagiarize yourself. Consider this: You have a class assignment in Poly Sci that asks you to write about Al Gore. Well six months ago in your Natural Science class you had to write a paper on global warming and a whole section of that paper would fit into your paper on Al Gore. You turn it in and guess what? You fail. It's called recycling and it is considered plagiarism by most if not all universities. Even though you wrote it, you cannot reuse it. You can use bits and pieces and paraphrase some of it, but you have to do it the same why that you do a paper by another author that means you properly cite yourself.
Another aspect to consider is referencing. You should acknowledge the work of the other authors. I think that using the ideas of another author without acknowledging that person's work is also a form of plagiarism.
referencing = citation. That is what everyone has meant by saying cite your sources.
Oppss.. indeed.. :S.. Sorry :S