Blogging Basics: How to Avoid Plagiarism
The dreaded “P” word. Most people are familiar with the term plagiarism from their school days, but do you really know what it means to plagiarize?
According to Merriam-Webster.com, to plagiarize is:
To steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own; use (another’s production) without crediting the source
That means that plagiarism includes more than just the intentional copying and pasting of someone else’s content. Most people instinctively know that this is wrong, and it is easy to avoid by simply not doing it. The challenging part is that plagiarism can, in some cases, be unintentional. This happens when a person inadvertently uses the overarching ideas, formatting, or unique ideas of someone else’s content.
The idea that plagiarism can be unintentional is a very scary concept, because it brings up the question, “Then how can I avoid it?” Here are some tips:
Do your research.
Chances are you don’t know everything about the topic you’re writing about. As you research make sure that you visit a wide variety of websites. Reading content from multiple sources makes it less likely that you will unintentionally replicate the ideas and formatting of any one single source. Also, make sure to keep track of the website links for any key points or facts that you find that you would like to include in your own blog post.
Write in your own words.
Obviously this means that you shouldn’t copy and paste from someone else’s content. It also means that you shouldn’t take someone else’s content and try to simply “rewrite it” in slightly different wording by using synonyms or rearranging the order of some words. The research that you do should merely serve as a trigger to help get your thoughts going on your intended topic. Your writing should be done on your own and not while specifically looking at the websites that you’ve researched.
Cite your sources.
The exception to #2 is when you have identified specific key points or statistics from other websites that you feel would be beneficial to your post. In these instances, you will want to provide the proper sourcing by placing the replicated content in quotes and including a link back to its original source. You can do this within the writing of your content, like the Merriam-Webster link above, or by including the link in parentheses after your content. (Source: example.com) You can also use this strategy if you feel like you’ve written custom content that relies on the “ideas” of content that you’ve researched. You won’t need the quotes in this case, but you could still put the link to the source in parentheses just to be safe. Linking is also a great practice for SEO, so err on the side of linking to your sources.
Check anti-plagiarism tools.
There are a number of resources online for checking to see how similar your content is to other websites’ content. It’s a good idea to use more than one when checking your content, so that you can be confident that your content is plagiarism-free. Here are a couple free tools to get you started:
You may be wondering how all of this relates to the use of photos for your blog post. When using photos, it is best to either use your own or look for images available for commercial use online. If you decide to use online images, just be sure to source (attribute) them if necessary and follow the guidelines specified for that particular photo. There are 4 main types of images available for public use:
- Creative Commons CC0 – Owner has released their rights to a photo, so it can be used without sourcing.
- Creative Commons CC 2.0 – Photos are free to use, but only with appropriate sourcing. (Click here for examples of how to properly source a CC 2.0 image)
- Public Domain – Photos with expired copyrights, government media assets, etc. can be labeled as public domain. These are available for use without sourcing.
- Royalty Free – This category represents stock photos that you can purchase for a fee, and then use without sourcing however you choose.
For a list of websites offering free photos, check out the following resources:
- Huffington Post: 53+ Free Image Sources For Your Blog and Social Media Posts
- HubSpot: 20 of the Best Free Stock Photo Sites To Use In 2017
We hope that you have enjoyed our Blogging Basics series. If you missed our earlier posts, be sure to visit those below for more tips on how to make your blog a success.