You Asked: What is Plagiarism?

Welcome to another: You Asked the Experts Answer, segment. The question this week – What is plagiarism?

If you’ve been watching television, read anything on social media, or in the news this week, you’re aware of the controversial speech Melania Trump gave on Monday night. Personally, I thought her speech was beautifully given and expressed some of the same values I’ve articulated. However, many don’t see it that way, questioning certain passages as plagiarism.

As writers we’ve repeatedly heard the saying, there is no new story under the sun.  Not wanting to plagiarize, I went on the hunt for the original source. There were many quasi-sources, but the most original came from the King James Bible – Ecclesiastes 1:9. Some might argue that the above statement is a common expression and doesn’t need sourcing, but and there in lies the rub. How do we know? You can find out more about, The exception of common knowledge, here

What is Plagiarism?

According to the reliable Merriam-Webster DictionaryPlagiarism  -“the act of using another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to that person.” However, it’s more complicated than good old Webster implies.

Types of Plagiarism:

According to the Harvard Guide to Using Sources, there are six types of plagiarism. You can find out more by clicking on the links below.

  1. Verbatim plagiarism – word for word.
  2. Mosaic plagiarism – bits and pieces.
  3. Inadequate paraphrase – language too close to the original.
  4. United paraphrase – using your words to reflect another’s ideas or words with giving credit.
  5. United quotations – using quotations without citing the source.
  6. Using material from another’s work – collaboration is fine, but most be cited from the source.

As you can see avoiding making mistakes is like walking a tightrope at times and as writers it becomes even more important. Below are a number of resources to help you avoid those nasty pitfalls. In addition, I’ve provided a list of the top plagiarism checkers for you to evaluate.

37 thoughts on “You Asked: What is Plagiarism?

  1. Thanks Sheila! Good post. I’ve used copyscape and learned to never have three words in a row. Difficult to do when writing about facts for a true story. Writing fiction though is fun as you just write away! I hope to always stay on the right side of the law. Truly in this big world we do have the same values and concepts as others; so naturally I would think every now and then we might write similar. But to intentionally copy, not giving credit, is lazy and stealing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An important topic, Sheila, well articulated in your post. I suspect that many authors are scared of unconscious plagiarism. I actually offered a caveat in one of my books to a phrase I came up with that seemed way too clever to be my own (smile). I noted “If some famous writer didn’t say this, s/he should have.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been studying this since I started college! It is posted everywhere! When it comes to research and using secondary resources, it can be a little tricky to put it in your own words. We have to use in-text citing, citing our work, and bibliography. I really get confused using MLA and APA. I don’t understand the difference. But in my classes I’m using both. Exhausting.

    Liked by 1 person

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