I teach academic English (English for university level studies) and one of the biggest challenges is helping learners avoid plagiarism. So? Well, I have been a let’s say, “lifestyle/beauty/planner” blogger for quite a while now, and have noticed that lots of people are plagiarising without even realising it. So, today I decided to go into ‘teacher mode’ and talk a bit about plagiarism and try to help you avoid it while giving you some writing tips taken out of a uni course!!I know we are not in academia, but we write and we need to follow some sort of writing etiquette.
But first, let’s take a step back and define plagiarism
What is plagiarism?
If you write something that you read somewhere, were inspired by someone else and got an idea, but you do not mention that person in your blog post, then you are plagiarising.
A more proper definition? According to the Cambridge online dictionary, plagiarism is
to use another person’s ideas or work and pretend that it is your own.
So, how can you avoid plagiarism?
Before I answer that question, let me just make a few points clear:
- I will be using the word cite in this post. Citing means mentioning the author/website you got ideas or parts of a text from. We do not just cite people. We need to cite websites as well. Have a look above at how I quoted the Cambridge dictionary.
- Can all words be paraphrased? No. Key words cannot be paraphrased. How will you paraphrase the word tennis or piano without sounding weird? It’s not possible. Also, there is something called common knowledge which of course does not need to be referenced and does not mean you are plagiarising. What am I talking about? Brad divorced Jennifer. We all know this. Greece is in recession. We know this too!These things are general knowledge, so they do not need paraphrasing or referencing. If I were to write a blog post about ways DNA affects beauty and were to do research, then I would definitely need to reference,cite someone.
Is plagiarising a big deal?
Yes, yes, yes. It’s stealing. It’s disrespectful and finally place yourself in the plagiarised person’s shoes. How do you feel? It can also get you into big trouble.
Tip 1: All about permission
First of all, check for copyright restrictions of what you decided to use in your blog post. Maybe the person who has inspired you has a license or copyright regulation that does not allow copying.
If you are not sure, then you should try to contact the writer. Leave a comment, tweet or email that blogger and get permission to use his/her ideas/words.
Tip 2: Quote or paraphrase?
Once you have permission start looking at the text you want to reproduce in your own blog post. How well do you understand it? Is it easy to paraphrase or will you need to use a direct quote?
If you read something that is too difficult to paraphrase, then don’t. Use a quote instead. You are more likely to mess up if you do not have the language to paraphrase. You may be thinking you are paraphrasing when in fact you are not.
Tip 3 : A good paraphrase
Paraphrasing to avoid plagiarism does not mean changing a few words. Nope. You need to change the structure and wording of the other person’s text. You need to use synonyms, different word forms and sentence structure/word order. YOUR TEXT SHOULD NOT LOOK LIKE WHAT YOU ARE PARAPHRASING.
How can paraphrase well?Any suggestions?
Well, take out your thesaurus.Also, find derivatives and then rewrite. Once you have finished rewriting, rewrite again. A great way to avoid plagiarising is by redrafting the other person’s text as many times as possible. You want to say the same things but in a different way.
Note-taking (on paper) is a good way to a paraphrase. What do I mean? Look at your original text and make notes, jot down the information you want to use and try to change the words while doing this. Reducing the words is actually a safer option (summarise). In fact, summarising instead of paraphrasing may be the only way to go. I always tell my students, ” Try to make a long text, a very short one. Paraphrase in a sophisticated way. Go from long version to short version”.
(Summarising: make a text shorter. Paraphrasing: say something in different words. You should paraphrase and summarise)
Extra tip 2
Google your work. Yes, you read correctly. Put your paragraph in Google’s search engine and see if it comes up. If you see your text is popping up in the search results, then you are not doing a good job at paraphrasing.
What about tags/challenges?
You may ask, “What about tags, challenges, linkups?If someone challenges me, do I still need to mention them? They already know I will be using their idea”. Of course you do!! Even if another person knows you will be writing something based on their work, you still need to cite them. Linking that person’s website does not mean you will lose readers (tick the open in new page option when you link other websites), it means you are being a considerate blogger!
Ok so I paraphrased/summarised. Now what?
How do I cite (reference)?
Make sure you mention the original source in your work. Link that source to your post. I read somewhere on blah blah’s website does not count as citing!! Say who wrote it and where you found it. If it’s a book, mention the book and author. If you do not want this (mentioning the book title in your actual post, use asterisks and have an acknowledgment or reference list at the end of your post!!I strongly suggest though that you mention everything in the post, not at the end.
E.g. X in his book “title of book” (you can use “” or put the title in italics) mentions that Direct quote OR papraphrase.
Finally, plagiarism is not only about stealing other people’s ideas/words. You can plagiarise pics as well. I will talk about that in a later on post.
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you want to read more about plagiarism, check out my writing/blogging page.I talk about plagiarism in an older post. Still want more info? *You may want to get R. Harris’s this book on Amazon It has tips on how to improve your writing and looks at plagiarism in detail (especially unintentional plagiarism).
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