Arundhati in the comments on the previous post has very succinctly summed up the essence of avoiding plagiarism, but for the hard-of-thinking I'll go over it again.
Firstly, plagiarism is just a fancy word for COPYING. It means both copying verbatim and passing it off as your own work (which is illegal) and copying the ideas and vomiting them out as your own (which is not always illegal but is definitely damaging to your reputation). Now wait a minute, you say. Isn't that what we're taught to do all through school and even in college? True. It's all part of the process of teaching.
Teaching is paradoxical. We fill you up with facts and figures that we already know, and ask you to 'learn' them ie repeat them back to us, but what you don't get told at the outset is WHY we do this and WHAT its supposed to do for you. You figure the purpose of it all slowly as you go along, and college is where it should start to dawn on you. Eventually, when you've climbed the mountain of the syllabus and internalised as much of it as you can hold, we want you to step off the map. College is where you take your first tentative steps into the unknown, by thinking for yourself, by asking questions, by adding to what's known and evaluating, interpreting it. Of course, we hold your hand while you're doing it, and we weigh what you bring back from the edge, but the point is, you have to know where the edge is.
This is where the rules change. Now we still want you to go out there and read secondary material (that is books about books, books of criticism, books that you might call meta-texts) as well as primary material (novels, poems, biographies, etc) but we also want you to begin in a small way adding to what's known. You are now required to start pulling your weight in the academic world. You might say, well, these people we're reading are such bosses, they've covered everything, I can't find something original to say about Paradise Lost!!!! The answer to that is, of course there is something original to say about PL. There always will be. The state of the art today hasn't even scratched the surface of that text, or of any text.
So how do you do it? Read the critics to map the edge. Then hammer them. Ask where they haven't gone far enough, where they've gone too far, where they haven't gone at all. Disagree with them: have a dialogue with them in your head. Then put it on paper. Do the same with the primary text: in fact do it more with the primary text. Your reactions to a text are uniquely your own: they are original without your having to sweat it. You will do this successfully if your school education as yet hasn't dulled you to the point where you no longer react to what you read. Schools mostly try to turn people into buckets full of 'facts': we want you to be crucibles in which facts are transformed. You still have to fill the crucible, but you also have to light the fire underneath.
Now do you see why copying term papers is such a missed opportunity? we give you term papers to do so that you can, in a controlled environment, start to form your own opinions about texts and genres. Finding the material on the web is only the first part of the process. Then you have a dialogue with it, which you report by quoting bits of the material either in quote marks (for small bits) or in stand alone blocks for large bits, with references in both cases, and intermesh them with your own comments and interpretations. Look in any work of criticism worth its salt to see how it's done. Yes, and you have to reference EVERY TIME you quote. You can't just have a sloppy list at the back, huddled away after your name and cool downloaded pictures. If that means you mention a site fifty times, so be it. Also be alert to subpages in sites: your browser bar will tell you when you've followed a link to a sub page. You also have to give the date accessed along with the stable URL. You don't need to mention your browser or OS. Images also have to be referenced.
This is becoming a very long post. I'll let you chew this bit, and continue my rant next time....