Plagiarism: Violation of the Mind

Plagiarism is obviously not something people in the profession of journalism enjoy very much.  To me, plagiarism is like having your mind violated.  Someone is taking the idea that you had, the completely original awesomely unique idea that you wanted to share to the entire world, and claiming it for themselves.   It’s frustrating.  imagine seeing your genius idea being produced by somebody else.  I personally would be left angry like, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT WAS YOUR IDEA?!?!??! AHHHHHHH!!!!”

In 1976, Ralf Baer, designer of the first commercial games console, the Magnavox Odyssey, had a settlement it Atari after they felt Pong was a rip-off of their game Ping-Pong.  There is even more acts of plagiarism in the gaming world.  An interesting article to take a look at, which is the same place I got my information, is one from The Guardian entitled “Clone Wars: is plagiarism killing creativity in the games industry?” In the article, they explain how games are created based off of other games but contain minor tweaks in order to avoid plagiarism.  This reminds me of all the Farmville like games that change it into the same type of game play but just a different theme or name.

The copy-and-paste method on all computers is a huge contributor to plagiarism.   People assume that if the information is out there,  they can find it and place it in their essays without sourcing the information.  The biggest aid in avoiding plagiarism is to SOURCE SOURCE SOURCE all of the information that you found somewhere else.  I found this funny picture to help explain the misconceptions of plagiarism.  Enjoy!



Plagiarism, Is It Really Worth IT?


When a person thinks about plagiarism, what does he or she think it means? Plagiarism has many definitions in many areas, but one definition from the Ledger Stylebook is “the act of taking ideas, thoughts or words from another and passing them off as their own.” This means that if a person copies and pastes a paragraph into their own work from someone else’s work without citing them, then they are plagiarizing. Even if they change a few words, they still have stolen this person’s thoughts and ideas.

In the plagiarism committee report of The (Lakeland) Ledger they tackle the issue of plagiarism. This committee was created because of a case where “a copy editor was dismissed for plagiarizing a column about baseball trades.” They say that a person is plagiarizing if they steal “voices” from the archives and articles, which means they copy fellow reporter’s work and say it’s their own. The committee report also ruled that it’s okay to share quotes, but to be careful. This is because if you swap a quote that doesn’t mean that the quote you received from someone else is actually factual. What it all comes down to is that a writer needs to be careful what they use and make sure to cite everything that’s not their own. There is really no such thing as an accidental plagiarism.

In freshman year I had a friend who thought it was okay to copy paragraphs from websites, then paste them into her essays. She told me, “ It’s okay because I changed up a few words.” What she didn’t understand was that she was completely using someone else’s ideas and pretending that they were her own. In the end she was caught and received an XF for the semester. This grade is worse than an F because it shows that she has cheated on her transcript. If a person has so many consequences to cheating, is it really worth it for them?

Rachel Klinkatsis

Picture Cite:

The (Lakeland) Ledger, Shared with Penn State by Permission of Editor Lenore Devore, March 2008.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Plagiarism is a serious topic, but it is also one that sparks a great deal of controversy.  The consequences for this violation can be dire, because it is just like stealing, only with words instead of material things.

So here is the question: Do all plagiarists know what they are doing?  Is unintentional plagiarism a rare case, as the committee agreed?  We all know plagiarism is a serious offense, so why would someone take that risk?

The Ledger’s Report said it perfectly when they said there is no “hard-and-fast rule” to distinguish the line between using information as background, and plagiarizing.  Their report went into detail about the various cases where plagiarism was in question.

There are a few instances where plagiarism is not an issue, such as alluding to a literary phrase or commonly available facts, but since the rules are sometimes unclear, it is best to remember the phrase, “better safe than sorry”.  To avoid the chance of plagiarism, the Ledger’s Report recommends to keep clear notes, use direct sources, and ATTRIBUTE.98edd9dd90aa44fea82a4bf17b32f6a8

The Ledger’s report addressed the Internet and its integral role in the cause of plagiarism multiple times.  I can attest to the statement that a great deal of Americans today rely on the Internet for information, because I know I take full advantage of having Internet connection available in my pocket 24/7.  With such easy access to a Google search, the lines are often blurred between what information is shared and what is original.

Bottom line: Play it safe, double check your wording, and cite your sources!

Fact, Fiction or Fabrication

A prevalent issue within journalism today is the falsity of both sources and information, a form of plagiarism which is by no means new. However, the growth and recognition of this form of plagiarism can largely be attributed to the rapid developments in technology as well as the increasing use of online outlets for reporting.

Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter allow for the expedient spread of information–information which is not necessarily true. These outlets don’t always guarantee that someone is who they claim to be and can serve as major proponents of false quotations, causing news organizations and individuals who do not perform sound fact/source checks to use tweets and Facebook statuses as information for a story. A prime example of this was the serge of Facebook statuses following the Sandy Hook school shooting sharing a message supposedly from Morgan Freeman.

This situation shows that the attribution associated with a quote requires a source check more than ever before, as the true source of a falsification can get lost in the millions of likes, shares and retweets it gets. The expedience of both the sharing of a quotation as well as the debunking of such is astounding. Technology may have been behind the spread of this particular fabrication, but it is also how so many people (in this case it was the camp of Morgan Freeman) are able to denounce quotations and stories which are plagiarized.

“If a news outlet doesn’t have credibility it doesn’t matter what else it has.” -Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterson), HBO’s The Newsroom

Though this example of falsification appeared to be strictly accidental by most of those who shared the quote, there are many cases in which the intent behind false information or quote attribution can’t always be confirmed as innocent. I have made a point to follow a story regarding the school newspaper at the University of Alabama where The Crimson White, as the paper is called, has recently been accused of fabricating quotes.

The plagiarism committed by staff at The Crimson White has caused various blogs (not the most hard-hitting example of journalism, but Total Frat Move being one of them) which report any second hand information from this newspaper to blatantly attribute it to the paper and state that it may not necessarily be trustworthy. If lack of credibility is not the worst nightmare for a news outlet, I’m not sure what is.

With the number of self-proclaimed reporters on blogs and social media outlets, fact check and source citation is more essential than ever. My thoughts: always double check before spreading the information.

50 shades of Plagiarism

Plagiarism: Taking someone else’s work, thoughts or ideas and claiming them as your own. A seemingly simple concept is too often accompanied with a hefty load of ambiguity when applied in real life situations. Every situation is unique; there is no one scenario to define what is or isn’t plagiarism. It’s all just shades of grey. However, we can look to past examples to guide us through those situations of uncertainty.

San Antonio Express-News reporter, Macarena Hernandez, wrote in an article about a woman whose son was in Iraq, “She points to the pinstriped couches, the tennis bracelet still in its red velvet case and the Martha Stewart patio furniture, all gifts from her first born and only son,” Similarly, New York Times’ reporter Jayson Blair wrote, “Juanita Anguiano points proudly to the pinstriped couches, the tennis bracelet in its red case and the Martha Stewart furniture out on the patio…and all the other gifts from her only son…”. It’s hard to say what crossing the line truly is. In this case, I believe if she, and only she obtained the information in Macarena’s article, then she has the right to claim that Blair was plagiarizing from her work. Plagiarism in cases similar to this one should be handled with sever punishment. Personally, I believe taking someone else’s work and trying to pass it off as your own, without giving credit to the original author, is just plain wrong.

However, this is not to say that all plagiarism is intentional. Some people have difficulty properly citing their information or think that citing is unnecessary in certain situations. This is understandable. A tip for all writers: if you’re not sure, or have any doubts about if you are plagiarizing, cite your sources! It’s much better to be safe now than sorry later. As stated in the plagiarism committee report, you can also check your information on “plagiarism sleuth” if you can’t remember where the information originate. It will tell you if you are unknowingly stealing someone else’s idea or words.

I think most plagiarism is easily avoidable with simple citations and accreditation. For some, the concept of accrediting people for their words, thoughts and ideas seems too difficult to grasp. Just because you didn’t come up with the idea originally doesn’t mean you can’t report it. As a writer, your most essential attributes are your credibility and reputation. Just one case of plagiarism can kill both those birds with one stone. Do your self and your career a favor and cite your sources and be creative on your own. No one likes a copy-cat.

Originality hides behind its shadows

Originality hides behind its shadows

First off, identifying and defining plagiarism is a hard task in itself. The Ledger Stylebook describes it as “the act of taking ideas, thoughts or words from another and passing them off as one’s own.” Ever since we were young kids, we have been told from all our teachers to not copy from other people’s work. With that being said, we have iconic geniuses like Albert Einstein defining creativity and originality as “knowing how to hide your sources.” So ethically, it points out the questions on what really is plagiarism is and what is not. From Einstein’s point of view, you can say plagiarism is only plagiarism if caught, if not, well you’re just a crafty genius.

Now, there are some plagiarism that is just plain obvious and silly. Instances like Shia LaBeouf going out in public and just openly reiterating a 2009 Esquire essay or Southern Illinois University releasing a 139 word definition on what plagiarism is that seemed to copy word for word on a definition on plagiarism that Indiana University released just two years earlier. Situations like these are just too obvious and humorous. You also have those instances where someone just uses someone’s quote while failing to mention the original author at all. But then you have those cases where someone steals someone’s “thoughts”.

There are just infinite amount of stories being published by journalists each day. Within these stories, there are only a finite amount of ideas that can be published. The concept of stealing someone’s idea and that being labeled as plagiarism is a very tricky one. It is difficult in many cases such as Fredrick Colting stealing the entire idea of Catcher in the Rye. That is why I completely agree with the committee’s suggestion on revising The Ledger’s Stylebook definition so that plagiarism may include taking of ideas “in some cases.”

From the report, the statement that made me scratch my head was that “accidental” plagiarism is rare. They go on to explain that in most cases, the writer knows what he is doing. I guess I have this first pessimistic instinct to judge people as not knowing what they are doing. I may watch too much TV because although there is a very big handful of brilliant people on this planet, there are even a bigger amount of dimwits roaming around on the same ground. With coincidences seeming to be a regular thing around this world, it is hard to believe that many of the plagiarism that happen aren’t accidental.

Plagiarism is a tricky concept. You have people like Albert Einstein giving leeway into plagiarism with artists like The Beatles and Vanilla Ice flaunting and basically encouraging it with their fame and money. At the end of the day though, it all comes down to what you believe as a journalist. I personally hold pride in what I do and although I could probably get away stealing a couple lines from a low budget newspaper, I want to pick up an article, read it, and hold my head high knowing that it was mine.

Plagiarism v. United States? United States v. Plagiarism? Student v. University?


Lets play devil’s advocate.

            So we all know plagiarism is bad, against the rules, wrong… basically illegal, especially in our industry. Yes, we already know this; yet, even though we learn this at a young age and continue to hear it at the start of every new class, people still plagiarize. AND will continue to plagiarize. In my honest opinion, I think plagiarism is usually unintentional or just out of laziness. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what common knowledge is, especially with the internet age.

            But what if it isn’t illegal in YOUR country? And then you attend college or have a career somewhere, where plagiarism IS illegal.

            In February, posted a blog article on this exact issue. In summary: Penn State and UCLA MBA applicants rejected because of (drumroll…) plagiarized essays. “At Smeal, MBA Managing Director Carrie Marcinkevage says 10 percent of the 481 applications received in the first and second rounds had plagiarized essays, up from 8 percent for the full admissions cycle last year. Many of the new cases are international applicants from East Asian countries, where borrowing from published sources without attribution is not considered wrong, Marcinkevage says.” So, what about this? Should these students then get penalized? 

            I think so, although interesting to consider. “The increase comes despite a disclosure on the Smeal website notifying applicants that their essays will be reviewed for plagiarism.” There’s that fact and the fact that as stated above, plagiarism is always brought up at the start of EVERY new class and as a semester-long reminder by your professor and University, it is written on every syllabus. In other words: you have been warned.

            Some basic examples of plagiarism: Lifting directly or indirectly from published material without attributing it; lifting quotes or information from a secondary source and presenting it as original to your piece; fabricating quotes or information from a source; presenting the identity of a source dishonestly; breaking a promise to a source or lying to a teacher/editor. These students knew to copy and paste the essay portions; now know you better attribute your information or be prepared for consequences. It’s not a matter of why and but, but more of a because they said so