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.