Consider this an update to my popular post How to Know if You Have Committed Plagiarism.
Clearly, that 2016 post resonated with readers. Has anything changed in that time?
In the comment section of that post, readers shared horror stories. Some shared the horror of seeing their work reproduced without receiving any sort of credit on other websites.
Others shared nightmarish accounts of being accused of plagiarism and fined after they unintentionally committed plagiarism themselves.
One of the most common questions when it comes to plagiarism as it relates to bloggers concerns images. If you use someone’s image and cite the blog as a source, are you covered?
The answer is “no” since you don’t know where that blogger found the image. How will you find or ever be certain of the original source?
We live in a society where people are inclined to sue. I know bloggers who unwittingly committed plagiarism and had to pay fines.
Fortunately, today’s guest author Christina Battons is here to shed light on this situation and make sure you don’t find yourself in a similar predicament of being accused and fined. She offers 5 tips you help you avoid plagiarism.
Consider these comments from a reader of the original post:
This happened to me several years ago with Getty images. I was sent an email with funny sayings and images of polar bears. I have no idea where the email came from – it was one of those forwarded and forwarded ones. I used one of the polar bear images on my mortgage website (this was before I was blogging). A year or so later my mortgage broker got a letter that they had to pay $7500 for the photo, even if it was taken down immediately. I had to take drastic measures to get it resolved.
Tips for the Novice Writer: How to Avoid Plagiarism
by Christina Battons
Plagiarism is bad and there is no point in going deep into the reasons for that. Students and even renown scholars have problems because of plagiarism in their works. So, whenever we write something, we should avoid plagiarism by all means. This minimizes the risk of intentional plagiarism.
However, sometimes you simply don’t know that the ideas that you have come up with yourself have been expressed by someone else before. This means unintended or accidental plagiarism. The fact that you did not know that a certain idea has been expressed before does not free you from responsibility. If you commit unintentional plagiarism, it is still plagiarism in the public eye because there is no way for you to prove that it was unintended.
Therefore, accidental plagiarism should also be avoided. It may be challenging, especially for a novice writer. Because you can’t possibly be aware of all the books and articles out there, can you? Probably not, but you are not expected to. It is also not expected from the proofreaders who find such cases of accidental plagiarism only because they always scan articles for plagiarism before the actual proofreading.
Sure, checking articles with the help of a proofreading service is the best way to make sure your work is ideal. Still, if it’s only plagiarism you are worried about, here are some tips that should help you to avoid unintentional ‘theft’.
- Be aware of what plagiarism is.
The dictionary definition of plagiarism is “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.” Therefore, the mere use of synonyms does not excuse plagiarism. The ideas that you have must be put strictly in your own words, so you are not blamed of “close imitation.”
- Know your theme.
Having in-depth knowledge of what you are talking about gives you two benefits in this regard:
– You are most likely generally aware of what is going on in your field of knowledge. You read the works of your colleagues from time to time. So, you know what you should not copy.
– Deep understanding of a topic means that you are not likely to copy someone else’s words.
You will most probably convey your ideas, and the text will be written in your own original tone, style, and – most importantly – words.
- Try and paraphrase every sentence in your head.
This way you will have several variants to choose from so you can pick the one that seems more original to you. You should pick the option which sounds the most like your own words. If you need to rely on some sources in the course of your work, find as many as possible. This way, you will avoid unintentionally quoting a single author all the time. Speaking of sources…
- Always reference your source.
If you have a certain idea or even a quotation stuck in your head, and you would very much like to put it into your work in these exact (or close) shape, then you are actually not forbidden to do so. The only thing that you need to remember to do is to mention the source that you are quoting.
Note that if you are a student, you should specify the format in which you are expected to refer to other authors. Your teacher or professor should be able to advise you in this regard.
Also, if you choose to use direct quotes, then include the source on the go, immediately as you write your text. Putting it off may cause you to forget to do it – and this will mean plagiarism. Avoid that.
- Do research about copyright.
Be warned that in many cases plagiarism is not merely an academic flaw. Sometimes, it is a violation of law, and a plagiarist may encounter some legal complications. This is why it is necessary to be aware of the legal approach to plagiarism as well.
Bonus tip: A fact is normally not subject to copyright. This means that you are free to use facts the way you want without fear of being accused of plagiarism. For example, nobody can copyright such sentence as “Water boils at 100 degrees Celcius”. However, when an author uses their own expression to describe something new or define a term (such as ‘black hole’, for example), this definition can be copyrighted. If this is the case, you should use quotes and reference your source.
Bio: Christina Battons is a blogger and freelance writer. I am interested in topics about education, writing, blogging, motivation, etc and I also like to share my knowledge with people. Currently, I write for various blogs like ThrivingWriter or similar. My free time I spend with my family, friends, or riding my bicycle. You can find me on Facebook.
Please share, so other content creators know how to avoid plagiarism.
Readers, what have your experiences been with plagiarism? Have you been victimized by someone stealing your work or photos? On the other hand, have you been accused of stealing other people’s work? I look forward to you sharing your experiences in the comments section.