By in Writing

What is Plagiarism?

When you write a factual article, you have to use the facts. The facts exist. You can not decide to say Queen Victoria ruled in 1701 or that Texas was one of the thirteen colonies. Those things are not true. Everyone who writes about Queen Victoria will supply the same dates for her rule, she took the throne in 1837 and ruled until her death in 1901. Texas was never one of the Thirteen colonies; not by the widest stretch of the imagination.

Facts can't change. How you use them does. How you phrase a factual article is the difference between writing an original piece and copying someone else's work. Writing in your own voice, your own style, is what makes an article you wrote yesterday different from an article I wrote last year, even though we are both writing about Karl Marx.

Too many people will see an item in Wikipedia and cut and paste. They might twist around a paragraph, add a few ideas, but most of the article is taken, word for word. They aren't writing, they are plagiarising.

What they ought have done is read a few different articles, developed an 'expertise', then write, popping in the facts where they are necessary and explaining the importance in their own voice.

A friend of mine tells the story of watching a program on television, being inspired, doing his research, then writing an article for a particular site, posting it, and subsequently, while reading the list of other articles, see one about the same topic. Assuming this was a plagiarised version of his work, he clicked on it only to find a totally different essay.

If you think Queen Victoria was a disaster, or if you think she had a lasting impact on her realm, you will be writing from your point of view. That is what makes an item original.

Sometimes you will have written something in 2000 and when you go back and read it, you see how you can improve it and begin 'rewriting' which becomes, (considereing ten years of experience) a totally different article. This is not plagiarism; not when you are dealing with a factual piece.

When you write absolute fiction, you must be sure that you aren't 'stealing' ideas from other writers. Unless it is a parody, where you have Captain Church and First Office Pox, (using Star Trek characters) knowing full well that you are using characters from another person's work, be very careful. Many writers have been successfully sued, (most settle out of court) when their descriptions are too close to those written by another.

Alexander Selkirk was alone on an island off the West Coast of South America for four years. He wrote a book about his experiences. Later, Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe; which did 'take' from Selkirk's book but changed, added, twisted, and moved as far as he could from the original.

Most people do not know of Alexander Selkirk, they do know of Robinson Crusoe. Defoe was never sued for his work, for although he took the idea of a man being stranded on an island, he so altered the facts that the books are not the same.

Plagiarism is stealing. It is stealing another person's ideas and work. It is not writing something fresh from your perspective, it is simply grabbing something another person wrote, slapping your name on it, and shoving it at the public.

You will need an account to comment - feel free to register or login.


No comments yet, be the first!