With such a variety of written material available in our world instantly, whether generated by blogs, expressed in articles, as tweets, or even ebooks, the challenge remains for an author to keep their words, thoughts and ideas fresh, original, and absent of all plagiarism. Plagiarism is using the words of others without giving credit.
How do we lay claim to an idea? Some would argue that ideas and phrases belong to everyone. Perhaps, it is most often in the presentation. When these ideas are put into print, others can easily use them. And too often, they are. According to the Unplag plagiarism checker plagiarism is not always intentional. Sometimes an idea is presented that sounds quite close to the original works of another because it is in the same realm or about the same content.
Here are a few tips for keeping your ideas, your written words, your statements, just that… yours.
Tell YOUR truth
In most cases,fiction writers don’t typically deal with the issue of plagiarism because the realm of fiction allows them to make up, imagine, embellish, or create the bulk of what they compose. However, non-fiction writers, particularly where the information is specific and detailed, must provide accurate information and that means backing up the sources. When you are an expert in what you are writing about, stick to an outline. Include only what you know to be true. This keeps you authentic. Expand on thoughts as they come to you and organize them later.
Consider this smarter way to work: what do you have that is unique to you? Hmmm…. That answer should be crystal clear. It's yourself. It's who you are. It’s your personality, likes and dislikes, your opinions and biases and your fears. The more this makes up your writing, the more original, honest and authentic your words will ring. In many cases, this will come without even trying. In other words, try to be brutally honest with yourself. Decide on a comfortable degree of exposition, or even confessionals, while injecting some of your personality into every word of your composition. Don't hide.
Become an avid reader on your topic
Yes, that means to be truly an expert on your subject matter; you need to read…read…and then read again.Sometimes a new perspective or argument comes form your immersion in a topic. You will naturally start formulating your own reflections and attitudes. As you read everything you can, make notes, in point form. These are the points, (not whole thoughts of others) that will be where you start when actually writing. Keep in mind the correct rules regarding referencing. If using direct quotes, start recording these references quite specifically.
Practice the skill of paraphrasing
Use your own words and phrasing to express thoughts that may have come to you through your reading, research and discussion. Jot down points or concepts, even statements, to be discussed in your content that which will help you expand in your paragraphs with your own descriptions and comments.
Pace Yourself and Take Breaks
If you begin blogging or composing right after you have read someone else’s words, your chances of uses someone else’s thoughts and words are quite high … and risky. Take time to absorb, maybe even rethink, reorganize or dwell on your own ideas before building any sentences. The little distance from the original source is important to establish.
Rethink your workspace
Immersing yourself in a written piece often involves being surrounded by your resources, books, and articles. And to include the digital resources, you may have many webpages and sites open. To safeguard yourself from using other’s work, you need to close these sites and physically remove items away from where you are composing. Remove the temptation. It is too easy to use the words of others if they are exposed to you and accessible. Get back to those notes you wrote and review the points you want to make. If working from online sources, avoid using the “cut and paste” shortcuts for writing that may lead you to unknowingly use material that is not ultimately yours.
Edit and Rework… Edit and Rework
Every writer can attest that editing is huge part of the writing process. With each effort you will reorganize, re-phrase and rewrite. A little more originality will leach into your words. Again, do this by creating some distance from your sources. Allow your own writing style and creativity lead you to choosing different phrases and better descriptions. As you reread again, you will be less likely to find your words are just the regurgitation of others. They are your own.
Follow citing protocols
Learn what you can about the acceptable ways to properly cite sources. You must give credit to the words of others. In academic institutions, you will likely be required to follow the rules dictated by the various faculties. Be specific. Follow closely the details required about author’s names, dates, pages, and publication information. Soon enough this practice will become second nature when you research and write. Surprisingly, you can cite your own work too.
At times, you may need to use another author’s ideas or words. Perhaps they are so critical or important to be included in what you are expressing. Use the proper means of citing quotations. At the bottom of the page, or end of the piece, give the necessary credit. This is respectful, it keeps you reputable, and in academic institutions, it is necessary. Without it you could get in academic trouble!
Understand more about plagiarism in the digital age
Contrary to popular belief, plagiarism is deliberate, not accidental. Ignorance doesn’t work here. To establish and maintain a good reputation as a writer, you need to become very familiar with what is not legal or acceptable in the world of publishing. This is easier than ever with online sources. Be acutely aware of the consequences and penalties for plagiarizing. The first casualty is your reputation. In some cases there can be legal and monetary repercussions.
How to keep your work from being plagiarized?
Sadly, the truth of the matter is that you can’t. There is no lock, no security once your work is published. Whether your work is self-published or with a publishing company, the World Wide Web is the wild west. When you discover your work has been copied, go after the culprit. Contact the author and let it be known they are “caught”. Seek damages through legal action if they are reaping monetary rewards from your work.
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