Monday, 27 April 2015

Identifying Plagiarism in the Blogging Community // Please Acknowledge Your Source!

I can tell you, I should not be writing this blog; I should be working on my A-level homework that's piling up. However, as I sat down to write a response to the mock exam question that's due in tomorrow, I just couldn't get this issue out of my head. As an A-level student, aspiring professional writer/journalist and a somewhat-regular blogger, I can't tell you how much the thought of someone stealing my/others' work infuriates me. In the blogging community, I know so many people whose work is legitimate, and honestly, it makes me proud. Many of you that I know, write how you talk, and so much of your personality shines through this way. There is however, at least one blog I am aware of - many of you will know/suspect which - that I would say is a (not so) shining example of plagiarism. Finding out someone you know is a plagiarist can be upsetting, especially when their blog is one you enjoyed reading.

Plagiarism: the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.
DISCLAIMER: Don't worry, I haven't plagiarised this definition, it's an automatic Google-generation. Would be a bit ironic, though, wouldn't it? ;)

The idea for this blogpost was thought up by myself and one of my blogging and real-life friends. Liv, whose blog you can find here (I really need a 'Favourite Blogs' section... I'm working on it) has recently been accused of copying another blogger and it's on this point that I'd like to stand up for her. Talking about the same topics as someone else IS NOT technically plagiarism (thanks to freedom of speech laws), especially if you have completely different opinions or have talked about the topic from a different angle/perspective. Adapting an idea and making it your own is not the same as outright copying someone's work, and it is certainly not illegal. Plagiarism on the other hand, is completely and utterly illegal, as the expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws. Failure to acknowledge these laws is considered a form of literary theft. ( If you acknowledge the author whose work you've shared - as I have just shown - that's also NOT plagiarism. So what should you do if you suspect someone is using plagiarism to gain popularity in the blogging community? First you'll need to prove yourself right or wrong.

It's easy to identify plagiarism. Do any of you watch Catfish: The TV Show? It's as easy to catch a plagiarist as it is to catch a catfish. Catfish presenters Nēv and Max use a technique which involves dragging a suspected catfish's profile picture into a search engine and looking for matches. Suspect plagiarism in a blog that you read? Copy and paste some of their content into Google (alternatively, your school or college might have a plagiarism checker which would make this whole process a little bit easier for you). And I'm not talking about a common sentence. "Today I went to the shop" is something 3000 different people could have written, completely honestly and without stealing work from another person. There should be unique trigger words in the sentence you search, and the sentence you choose should be relatively long. Found an exact match in an article that was written months before? That's plagiarism, my friends.

But why do people plagiarise, and what can be done about it? Plagiarism usually occurs for one of three reasons: 1) to gain popularity using someone else's ideas (this is actually quite similar to the definition of a poseur, a typical example of a person who might use plagiarism for their own means) 2) to pass an exam or essay, fearing that their own work isn't good enough, or 3) simply because they cannot be bothered to exert the effort to write their own content. Either way, it's disgusting, if you ask me. Plagiarists are potentially benefiting from an article which someone else has taken time and effort to write. The original author may have struggled to write their article, so why should plagiarists get to skip the hard work! It's time we called them out.

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: The source of this picture can be located by clicking on it.

One solution could be to comment on the blog of this person, if comments are enabled. Ask them to acknowledge their sources. If they then don't resolve the issue, you could resort to finding the sources yourself, and e-mailing the original author(s), exposing the plagiarist and leaving them to the consequences of their actions. The authors have more of an authority to get it removed, and, of course, can even stage a legal intervention if it's that serious. Otherwise, you can expose the blog on social media and call for a boycott. Copying and pasting their content into Google to see where they got their sources is all well and good if that's as far as you're willing to go, but it also has a downside because it gives the plagiarists' blog more views and higher statistics. Calling for a boycott of their blog, however, is sure to have the opposite effect in the long-term.

Please take care to acknowledge your sources!

Meaghan x

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