Avoiding Plagiarism

When I first began writing blog articles I thought it prudent to establish how ethical or otherwise it was to use the articles of others as inspiration for my own writing.

This is not plagiarism
Young Bears Tussling

Having almost fallen foul of infringing copyright when I used an image taken from television, in the past, it seemed only sensible to establish the legal framework for copyright in general.

I began this investigation by visiting www.plagiarism.org where they publish a detailed definition of the act.

It had been suggested, elsewhere, that it was acceptable to use an existing published article to form the basis of a new article for your own blog provided you changed the wording. That is an uncertain statement and it would depend on the extent of the wording change. It would also depend on the nature of the article forming the inspiration.

Paraphrasing is the practice of changing the wording of an existing article as opposed to quoting which is using an exact section of the article. When quoting it is deemed good, if not essential, practice to cite the name of the author as well as the name of the article that the quote is taken from. The quote should always be contained within “quotation marks”.

I believe that certain article which contain very specific information can be constued as being unique. In these case the subject or theme of the article i constitutes intellectual copyright. In these cases it would not be sufficient to paraphrase the article. You would need to add something, uniquely, new to the article.

According to the Merriam-Webster online Dictionary

to “Plagiarize” means:

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own.
  • to use (another’s production) without crediting the source.
  • to commit literary theft.
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.


Avoid Plagiarism with Correct Citation

Following on from the earlier paragraph www.plagiarism.org states “The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions.”

So you cannot copy an idea. It goes on to itemize the following instances of infringement:

The young chimp aping the adult. Plagiarism?
Adult and young chimpanzee
  • turning in someone else’s work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not


In most cases, citing the source of the information is enough to avoid accusation or penalty. Learning how to paraphrase correctly is important and it still requires citation of the source material.

It is also useful to try and establish the validity of the source. Not every article published on the Web is accurate or even correct. You don’t want to base your latest literary creation on flawed source material.

All notable authors research their material. Even works of fiction will have underlying facts that need to be evaluated and verified to lend credence to your story.

Images and Photographs should not be used without explicit permission from the copyright holder. Many image collections that you purchase ARE copyright-free and these can be used without qualm.

DO NOT cut-and-copy content; it is wrong, it is lazy, and the search engines will find you out!

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