Plagiarism: A Case Of Copy & Paste

by : Scott Lindsay

"Fine words! I wonder where you stole 'em." - Jonathan Swift

Whether you write for the web or a magazine it can be tempting to lift a sentence or complete thought and move it into the body of your work. After all, it seems to ft the premise you are working on and you’re facing a deadline.

This is a form of stealing that is addressed often in schools across the nation when students are too tired or lazy to finish an essay using their own words.

“Taking something from one man and making it worse is plagiarism." - George A. Moore

In order to become knowledgeable about a subject you must conduct research. In doing so you gain insight from those who have also conducted research. In many ways your research is a compilation of other research. It is possible for you to write a more comprehensive article with less first-hand knowledge than some of the ‘expert’ authors you were able to research.

However, if you sidestep proper research you could wind up with an end result that is filled with plagiarism and may well miss the point of your original research.

"Where do architects and designers get their ideas?" The answer, of course, is mainly from other architects and designers, so is it mere casuistry to distinguish between tradition and plagiarism? - Stephen Bayley

We learn the writing styles of others and adapt our own to emulate others depending on our own interests. Many great writers are perceived as such because they are also voracious readers. In turn the styles of the writers, whose words they consumed, became a piece of the reader’s writing style.

In the classic sense of the word, we all plagiarize. We all borrow ideas, thoughts, styles and voice from others who have mined the art of writing.

Writers are blessed in the 21st Century to have the Internet to conduct a broad range of research requirements. The trouble writers face today is using the ‘copy and past’ function on their word processing software and taking chunks of research from someone else and then passing it off as if they were the original authors.

“Originality, I fear, is too often only undetected and frequently unconscious plagiarism" - W. R. Inge

Our writing skills are often an amalgam of all we have absorbed in our writing, but we must do our best to present our articles in a manner that includes our own thoughts and when the words of others are used they should be cited. Your credibility as a writer is at stake.