Imagine penning down your most intimate thoughts about a topic and then publishing it online. Now think of a scenario where another person ‘borrows’ significant sections from this post (or even all of it) for their own article, without giving you any credit for it. How hurt would you be?
Welcome to the cruel world of plagiarism!
What exactly is plagiarism, you ask? Simply put, plagiarism is an ‘intellectual property theft’. ‘Intellectual property’ not only includes original writing or original speeches (think: interviews, public addresses etc), but also an ‘original thought or idea’.
And while plagiarising someone’s piece is not punishable by law per se, the cost of doing it is still pretty steep. It is a very dishonest practice, one that has destroyed the reputation and credibility of even the most established writers and journalists.
But what ‘exactly’ constitutes plagiarism? And how do I avoid it?
The tendency of many to directly ‘copy-paste’ something from another article is one of the most common forms of plagiarism.
How To Avoid This:
If you are using a word, phrase, a paragraph from someone else’s story, give them credit. Link back the copied portion to the source of your information
If you are quoting another person, chances are that you may present it in a manner that makes it seem like they are your own words.
This problem may also arise when one is citing facts or data from another source.
How To Avoid This:
The essential point here is to acknowledge and credit the source of information that you are using.
Say, you come across a very interesting article on a topic you like or there is a social media trend you want to take part in. Instead of adding your own perspective, you basically structure your article exactly like the one you just read. The words aren’t the same but the ideas or solutions are.
You may not have quoted any person directly, nor use any data/statistics directly. However, you may have taken concepts, phrases from your favourite authors, philosophers or social commentators, which you may feel would strengthen your arguments and points.
While everything creative has a source of inspiration, there is a fine line between working on an inspiration and just stealing ideas.
How To Avoid This:
Be sure of what you want to write about. Also, be sure of your own arguments. The concepts of other people are meant to strengthen your piece, and not replace it.
While writing, see if you’re basically just repeating what someone else already said. The idea here is to build on what the others have said, draw your own conclusions from them, or analyse them based on your experiences and understanding.
1. Practise developing your ideas and writing articles independently at first – without taking the help of quotes, data/statistics, newspaper reports, research studies, etc.
2. To avoid the need to borrow concepts, ideas and thoughts from others, be sure of your own arguments and how you want to validate them before writing the article itself. Remember, the borrowed bits do not make the article itself – they are only there to strengthen or, in some cases, guide portions of your article.
3. There’s often a very thin line between fact and opinion. Be aware of the difference between the two.
“Menstruation has been one of the many reasons why nearly 80% of women in India have been oppressed.” – this is a fact that needs to be sourced properly.
“I do not believe that a menstrual leave policy will solve the more pressing problems of menstruating women in India.” – this is an opinion which doesn’t need to be sourced on its own. However, if you have cited a data/fact, and/or a quote (by someone else) to validate or strengthen this opinion of yours, that quote, fact or data needs to be linked back to the relevant sources.
4. Be careful of ‘copy-pasting’ stuff from other sites and sources. It is only to be expected that the sites and sources would be as protective of their content as you would be, of your own articles. It is only fair that you acknowledge or credit the source of the information which you are using in the article.
So, there you have it. Be honest, follow these guidelines and get started on your next story on Youth Ki Awaaz!