Our Thinking

Preventing Plagiarism


Are you an information thief?  Have you ever plagiarized, pilfered, or “borrowed” someone else’s knowledge or reputation?  And has someone ever done this to you?

With the social web in front of us, it is too easy to use others’ information without their knowledge or permission – even if it is free.  Depending on how (and what) you share, you’re either seen as in-the-know… or a thief.

What type of attribution should you give, when you are using someone else’s information?  It depends:

1) Clicking the “share” or “like” button when reading a blog.

In this case, Facebook (or LinkedIn) automatically notes the source, and the writer or publisher – by virtue of having the share buttons available – is giving you implicit permission.

2) Quoting a few sentences within your blog or article.

If you are quoting someone else’s material, put the  quote, the writer, and the source website name with a link to the original article.  Doing this drives traffic to the source, and will generally keep you in the good books of the author and publisher.  Quoting an article without a link is selfish and lazy.

3) Quoting an entire article or most of an article, even with attribution, is also on the ethical border.

If you do this, there is no reason for the reader to go back to the original site. Effectively you are monetizing someone else’s work – and preventing them from doing so themselves. If you wish to use their article, connect with them first and ask for permission.

4) “Reporting on” an article by rephrasing most of it is also considered unethical for the same reason as the above.

These last two actions typically will make the author quite upset – enough sometimes to make a public example of you.  Or if they think that what you did is illegal, to write a nasty legal response to you and your employer.

This week’s action plan:  No one means to steal, but with everyone a publisher on the social web, it’s too easy to cross the line without recognizing it.  This week, give credit where it’s due whenever you speak or write.  Not only is it the right thing to do, but you will increase your credibility, both with your audience – and your sources.

Plagiarism alert:  There are services that will check for plagiarism.  One such service is www.Copyscape.com.  Try it out by testing one of your own pages: was the content copied from anywhere?