What is Plagiarism and How To Avoid it?

Learn what is plagiarism and how can you avoid it.

There may have been times when you copied a certain portion of someone else’s writing. You might have liked the idea or concept. You didn’t intend to, but you expressed exactly the same idea, but in different words. Whether it’s intended or not, copying someone else’s work and claiming them as your own is plagiarism.

It is the act of copying someone else’s original ideas, thoughts, expressions, and literary work and representing them as your own work without giving them any credit. The word ‘Plagiarism’ is derived from the Latin word ‘Plagiarius,’, meaning ’kidnapper.’ When you plagiarize, it’s like kidnapping someone else’s work and original ideas. It is considered ‘Intellectual theft.’

Students copy work in academic papers and assignments. Online content, like blogs, research papers, social media posts and other multimedia content is also plagiarized sometimes.

But, is plagiarism a crime? Like any other theft, plagiarism is also illegal and punishable. And, with plagiarism detection software so easily available, identifying a plagiarist is much easier today than it was a decade ago. Plagiarism may not sound like a serious misconduct, but it has very adverse consequences if you’re caught.

An author has the right to sue a plagiarist, which could mean legal action against the person; even leading to a prison sentence in some extreme cases. It can also have monetary repercussions where the plagiarist may have to pay huge penalties for copying someone else’s work. It can ruin a person’s academic and professional reputation.

Some people are not even aware that they’re copying someone’s intellectual property. There are different forms of plagiarism.

Direct Plagiarism – Direct plagiarism is when you copy someone’s content word for word, and represent it as your own, without any mention of the original author. This is very commonly seen in academics where students copy assignments and research papers and show it as their own work.
Self-Plagiarism – It might sound crazy, but using your own past work as a current assignment is also considered as plagiarism and should be avoided.
Mosaic Plagiarism – Sometimes you might just like someone’s idea or concept so much that you tend to copy the essence of the idea but in different words. You might use words which are synonymous with the original words while maintaining the overall meaning. This is mosaic plagiarism, mainly seen in blogs and other online content.
Accidental Plagiarism – Sometimes you could plagiarize by mistake. Copying someone’s words and forgetting to quote them, forgetting to mention sources, and missing credits to the original author are examples of accidental plagiarism. It could be an honest mistake but isn’t tolerable like any other form of plagiarism.

Plagiarism can bring uninvited trouble.

One legal action, and not only will you have to pay huge penalties, but your professional image can be ruined forever.

While you can avoid deliberate plagiarism by not doing it, here are ways to avoid accidental plagiarism.

Do Your Research

Before you start working on a project, make sure you’ve done enough research on the topic. It could be as simple as writing a blog post, or as complex as working on a research paper. You can gather valuable information from hundreds of sources.

But rather than focusing on copying the entire idea from another source, try and learn as much as you can from it. An in-depth knowledge of your topic will give you a clear idea of what and how to write. You won’t feel the need to plagiarize if you know your topic well.
Enhance Your Writing Skills

Many writers and journalists have a clear idea of what they want to write. But they lack the writing skills and tend to copy portions from other people’s writings. If you want to avoid plagiarizing, start working on your writing skills.

You will be able to write smoothly and express your thoughts precisely on paper if you keep honing your writing skills. Once you’re good at that, even if someone else’s idea seems interesting, you’ll be able to put it into your own words beautifully.

Refer Your Sources

Sometimes you copy content from other sources. This could be taking information from sources like Wikipedia, or Google. It is totally okay to rephrase information from other sources. But, when you do that, do not forget to credit your sources.

That way, you give credit to the original author and do not commit plagiarism. It could be simply mentioned in the footnote of an article, or in the bibliography of your research.
Quote the Original Author

Whenever you’re copying the exact words from an author’s work, it is best to quote the original author. Citing quotations is the safest way to copy information and stay away from plagiarizing.

For example, if there’s a sentence or a part of your work that could clearly be interpreted as copied, simply put the words in quotation marks and cite the author.

Edit Your Work

Even when you’ve taken enough care to make sure your work looks original by rephrasing sentences, citing quotes, and referring sources, there could still be a risk of getting into trouble.

To be safe from plagiarism, edit your work well enough before you finally submit it. Even a single sentence that looks like it’s been copied from elsewhere could cost you. Check, recheck and edit your work so well that there’s no scope of an error.

It’s great to be inspired by others, but it isn’t good to steal. True professionals respect the work of others. Copied work is identified quite easily. Whether you’re committing plagiarism knowingly, or accidentally, it is always good to avoid it and let your creativity flow. Original work not only gives you authority over others, it also keeps you safe from legal actions that could affect your entire career.

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11 Comments

  1. These are all great tips that can be used all in types of writing; especially blog posts! thanks for sharing

  2. I didn’t know about Plagiarism in so much details. Your post is really awesome and help me and others to know more about this topic and also remind to those who actually do this type of things. Great post and great content. Love to read your blog. Keep sharing.

  3. This is so important! It’s amazing to me the number of people who engage in plagiarism. My husband is a high school English teacher and he sees it all the time. It’s so sad!

  4. Great to clarify that plagiarism isn’t just copying direct words. I wasn’t aware it’s called mosaic plagiarism… all writers should read this to ensure it’s in their mind that when they write a peace they need to do a sense check on themselves to make sure it wasn’t too heavily ‘inspired.’ Thanks!

  5. Yes, thank you for this post! A lot of people often plagiaries without being aware they are doing it, which is completely unacceptable! I especially dislike when people take my photos on instagram and don’t give me credit even after I’ve asked them to tag me.

    xoxo,
    http://www.ciaomila.com

  6. In college we had all essays run through Turnitin (I’m not on the spelling) to avoid this, plagiarism can be easily avoided by citing sources. Using others work as reference is part of what makes modern writing so useful.

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