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Plagiarism, Attribution, Citation, Quotation



Search engines make information readily accessible and convenient to copy and paste but be aware that plagiarism is defined as the act of either intentionally  or unintentionally publishing or passing off work that was written or created by someone else as your own work. Any time you use any material from an original source and do not give proper credit, you have committed plagiarism and violated copyright laws. 

Plagiarism: How to avoid it

A quotation uses exactly the same words written or spoken by another person between quotation marks and credits the source.

“Citation” and “Attribution” are often used as synonyms, but they mean two different things. Citation is a scholarly practice for tracking the ideological underpinnings of a work, usually referencing sources like published books, articles, government documents, primary sources, etc. Attribution is about crediting a copyright holder according to the terms of a copyright license, usually crediting artistic works like music, fiction, video, and photography. — Cite and Attribute Your Sources

Paraphrasing is using someone’s ideas or words, expressing them in your own words and crediting the source. The paraphrase must be entirely in your own words. You must do more than merely substitute phrases here and there. You must also completely alter the sentence structure and cite a source for a paraphrase even though you did not directly quote from the source.

A summary in your own words of the meaning of and most important elements found in an original passage is shorter than a paraphrase and requires a reference to the material being summarized.

The Limitations of Fair Use

Jonathan Bailey of the Blog Herald writes:

“When it comes to matters of copyright, many bloggers are simply asking for trouble and don’t realize that they are doing so. They take images and put them in their entries without a thought to where they got them, they take articles, in whole or large part, without a thought to who wrote wrote it and tell themselves that their copying of the content is protected by fair use. … This causes many bloggers, especially new ones, to put themselves in risk that they never would have otherwise. Read the full article.

When it comes to The Limitations of Fair Use  Jonathon’s advice has and will continue to stand the test of time: Focus on commentary and criticism; Use as little of the work as possible; Attribute obsessively; and Focus on transformation.

Giving Credit Where its Due

The key to avoiding plagiarism is to make sure you give credit where it is due. Quoting and citing all sources you copy, paraphrase, summarize or translate information from is your protection from plagiarism.

Don’t just attribute; link. Linking is an essential part of attribution in online journalism. Linking lets people see the full context of the information you are citing. Even when readers don’t click links, the fact that you are linking tells them that you are backing up what you have written, that you are attributing and showing your sources. — You can quote me on that: Advice on attribution for journalists

If I write about another article, where should I link to the original source?

Matt Cutts, of Google’s Anti-Web Spam Team answers the question:

“I have a blog and I post original articles but I also like to link to the original website. So I link the website in a word in the first paragraph. Is this the right way or I should give a link separately at bottom.” — nayanseth, India

Plagiarism checkers:

There are many free plagiarism checkers you can use online. Copyscape is a free plagiarism checker. The software lets you detect duplicate content and check if  articles are original.

Introduction to Copyscape Plagiarism Checker

plagium (beta) – helps you track plagiarism – simply paste your original text in and click.

Plagiarism: How to avoid it

Why cite your sources?

  1. Telling your readers which authorities you rely on demonstrates you are well acquainted with the breadth of information on your topic.
  2. Credibility is reflected via worthwhile sources, so when relying on facts establish they’re trustworthy by demonstrating you got them from authoritative sources.
  3. Citing your sources is for verification purposes is a courtesy to your readers.

Related posts found in this blog:
Copyright and Public Domain
Copyright basics for bloggers
How to copyright your digital works
Content theft: The come and get it solution
Splog Off! Dealing with content theft
SplogSpot: Dealing with content thieves
Copyright: Fair Use Limitations
What is copyright?

26 thoughts on “Plagiarism, Attribution, Citation, Quotation

  1. hi, i started a category where i post poems or articles that i read from the book liked. at the end of the article i cite where i read that stuff. am i doing something wrong?? :|

  2. Back in the dark ages when I went to high school, each of my four English teachers spent hours across the school year talking about plagiarism – what it was, why it was bad, how not to do it, why it was important not to do it. But that was way before home computers and “cut and paste” were invented. I wonder if high schools address the issue now when plagiarizing is so much easier. How is it that stealing others’ works is totally acceptable to so many people?

    • My wife is a high school teacher. The kids submit their papers electronically and the teachers run them through a program that checks their papers for plagiarism.

      It’s amazing that the kids think they can get away with it. What’s really amazing is that after they get caught, some kids continue to plagiarize.

        • This generation doesn’t seem to give it a second thought. Thankfully we have the software to catch them.

          This same software will catch things like “Christmas is on December 25”. Teachers just can’t look at the result and say Johnny plagiarized 500 times. The software isn’t smart enough to rule out common phrases.

  3. Great explanations. I pinned this too:


    P.S. If you change your mind and don’t want them pinned, let me know and I’ll pull them off.

  4. Plagiarism is such an easy thing to do and most often happens unintentionally. I can empathize with doing a ton of research, perhaps over the course of a few days, and then writing a post. You try to give proper attribution and provide the necessary citation, but sometimes you forget exactly where you read something (or even that you actually did read a specific statement) and end up using another’s phrase or thought without meaning to. Tools like Copyscape help prevent that. It’s a simple idea that can have far-reaching effects! I also loved Jonathan Bailey’s article, “The Limitations of Fair Use.” Thanks for quoting it and providing a link. :)

    • Hi Kerwyn,
      It’s good to know you appreciate my post. Sometimes my research takes weeks and that’s why taking notes of all my sources religiously and annotating them is required. I agree the Jonathon’s 4 points are an excellent summation of how to avoid plagiarism.

  5. Thanks for this information, which is really important! I have sometimes been dismayed when I have googled a topic and found articles on as many as five different sites — all with exactly the same words and all giving no credit whatsoever. They had all copied each other! The only gracious way to write, when paraphrasing an article or writing a summary, is to give full credit with a link. Many thanks!

  6. Hi TT,
    Thank you for the informative post :]
    I found a couple of my posts being plagiarized. One guy had copied my entire article, word for word and claimed he was the author. In a search, ‘his’ article showed up above mine. He was probably getting more traffic from my post than I was. When I asked him to remove it, he said because I didn’t have a .com site, I wasn’t a serious blogger and basically that’s what allowed him a right to take it.

    I also used Google image search and found my artwork being used commercially, and many others who were posting without any attribution (some even removed my signature)

    -It is a compliment when people like your writing or art, but having them steal it is not cool.

  7. It’s sad if the reader is university or college educated, has to have this type of explanation. But plagiarism crimes know no limits on a culprit’s education level.

    Citation is a more formal way of documenting a reference in a particular format (Author, title, year of publication, etc.) to the original source content that you have used in a blog post. Some subject disciplines are very strict about the citation style –ie. the law world /legal sector.

  8. Someday I`m going to lock myself away for a whole week and trawl through your blog. It`s chock full of fantastic stuff. I rambled on from this post, right around through several posts but found myself wanting to take notes and bookmark everything along the way. I don`t have to worry about my blog being plagiarised just yet-I`m happy if people even look at it-but someday, if I study your blog long enough, I`ll be using these anti-plagiarism tips.

    • It’s summer so spending your time camping in the great outdoors is preferable to camping out in my blog. lol :D That’s not to say you aren’t welcome to, of course. Jonathan Bailey’s article on The Limitations of Fair Use is definitely one I recommend bookmarking.

  9. I want to add a remark here to point out a statement in the above movie about plagiarism.. At the end it is mentioned that generally known information does not need to be quoted. The given example is George Washington, who is said to be known to be the first president of the USA. I find that example a bit doubtful. Here is why:

    1 Lot’s of people don’t know that he is. This includes a huge amount of people outside the USA and I even think a substantial group of Americans might not know it. Assuming that something is generally known and accepted because a certain group know and accept it, is a bad assumption unless you intend to write for that specific target audience.

    I know our first Dutch king is William the First. I assume that most in the Netherlands do. If I write for my countrymen I might not need to quote it, but is this common knowledge in the rest of the world? I doubt it. Do I need to quote it? See my next point:

    2 What the moviemaker probably meant to say is that Washington being the first president is a generally accepted undisputed piece of information. The fact that our first king is William the First might be a disputed piece of information, since we had another king before him called Louis Bonaparte, who was a French puppet king imposed by Napoleon. Since he was an imposed king he is might not be accepted as a ‘dutch’ king. However, if I was to write a paper on Dutch laws , this might or might not include this french puppet king, depending on your point of view.

    The thing about this is to be well aware of the general level of knowledge of your target audience and their acceptance and knowledge of ‘facts’.

  10. This is a great help. None of us want to inadvertently take credit for something that’s not ours so we need to know how to link to others’ articles properly. I’m also starting to worry about Pinterest. Linking to an original site might not get us into trouble, but I’m seeing people cut the link to the original source which makes it look like they own the graphic. I can see future law suits from photographers or graphics folks who start to see their work pop up on boards with no citation and no credit. Ouch.

    • Hi Susan,
      The Pinterest situation you describe re: cutting out sources like it’s totally off course and I agree that doing that is bound to lead to a bad place.

      Generally speaking, I think most of us bloggers are worried about being plagiarized, as opposed to being worried about plagiarizing others. We need to keep in mind the fact that plagiarism can be unintentional and ignorance of the law is no excuse.

      I’m cultivating the habit of using plagiarism checkers to scan my drafts prior to publication to detect unintentional plagiarism. It can occur quite easily when one does a lot of research on any given topic as I do.

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