As part of my Tips For Budding Bloggers series, this post addresses a very important and often ignored aspect of creating content – Plagiarism. While seasoned writers know how to be original and check for duplicate content, many budding writers and bloggers fall prey to this.
So what is plagiarism? When the World Wide Web has millions of websites, does it really matter if my content matches with others? How can I find if what I have written is duplicate content? If I research for ideas is that considered plagiarism? And more importantly, how will I get affected if I have published duplicate content? This post aims to address these questions with simple explanations.
What Is Plagiarism
When you publish someone else’s work, either in part or whole, as your own it is considered plagiarism. This can be text, images, videos, ideas, theories, etc. Earlier this was viewed seriously mainly in the academic circles when students were submitting their research work. However, with the exponential growth of the internet, blogging and content creation are also fast gaining popularity. And because digital content is easily accessible and can be copied, there is an increased risk of plagiarism. Many countries have copyright laws for digital content in an attempt to protect the original author.
Pitfalls Of Plagiarized Content
Plagiarism is unethical and in simple words a theft of another person’s intellectual property. At best, if it is unintentional or accidental it highlights your irresponsibility for not being thorough before publishing your content.
Research VS Plagiarism
As a blogger and content creator, we are often looking for more information on an idea that we want to develop. It is considered OK to research different sources for information on what you want to write about. However, we must ensure that the information is collated only for reference from different sources and that the content presented is original with our own unique perspective. If only one source is used for research or if any content from the research is replicated (either in part or as a whole), then appropriate credit has to be given with links to the original website/article.
Loss Of Reputation
Though the world of the internet is vast, bloggers and writers are a tight-knit community who help each other grow. This means many of your peers will read your articles, will share them, or recommend you to someone who may be looking for content creators. If you copy content from others and that gets highlighted, you automatically lose the respect of the blogging community because as a blogger and a content creator your main job is to produce content and not copy it! You will also lose opportunities for references and recommendations. If you do find someone’s writing inspirational please do share it with appropriate credit / permissions.
Penalty & Lawsuits
Depending on the content that is copied and the potential it has to earn money / fame, you could be inviting lawsuits and penalties (including monetary compensation). Many countries have very strict digital copyright rules.
Popular search engines like Google have developed their own algorithms that check for plagiarized content and rank you in the search results accordingly. In extreme cases, your website or blog may even be blacklisted from appearing in the search results. For more information, you could refer to Google’s guidelines on how to avoid creating duplicate content.
If you are someone who generates content regularly, you will notice that many words or phrases are used repeatedly in your writing. Here, one’s style of writing and partiality to certain words reflects in multiple articles. While this may be OK if you write only to publish on your own site, it may result in problems or penalties for your clients if you are a professional content writer and have written on similar topics for different clients in the same niche.
How Can I Check For Duplicate Content
Many tools are available online that scan the internet and tell you if what you wrote is already existing on the internet and which part of the content needs to be changed. Free tools like Small SEO Tools or Grammarly can help you complete the check in a matter of minutes. These tools come with paid versions as well for advanced checks. Copyspace is another option that lets you check if your website content has been duplicated. This way you can protect your copyright as well.
Another way to check just a phrase or even a sentence is on Google Search. Just type in the phrase or sentence within quotes and the results will show you where these were used. While this method may not be ideal to check a long article completely, you could pick 10 sentences at random from across your post and check those to see if there is any match.
How Can I Keep My Content Original & Free Of Plagiarism
The fear of duplicate content should not deter you from writing. Create your own checklist and make sure you follow this for everything that you publish, and you should be good.
As far as possible, come up with an original idea for your post. This will automatically mean that your content is fresh. If you are writing for a client on a particular topic, look for a unique perspective from which the article can be presented. One tip that I follow here is to first write down my headline or title which reflects the perspective of the article, and then I spin my story around it. That way you know exactly what points have to be covered under the scope of the post, instead of making it a general one.
Write From Your Experience
Where possible, draw inspiration from personal experiences and stories. This not only gives a personal touch but also ensures that your content will be original because it is your story.
Research Multiple Sources
If you need more information for your post, research well using different methods and platforms. Do not just pick the top search result and use that as a single point of reference. Chances of unintentional plagiarism are higher in this scenario. Read up at least 10-15 related articles on the topic. This will help you identify what part of the topic you want to write about or highlight and minimize accidental plagiarism.
Do Not Copy-Paste
With so much information easily available on the internet, sometimes there is the temptation to copy-paste a part from an article that you liked or found relevant. Never ever do it. Simply put it amounts to theft and is unethical. You can use the same as inspiration and write your thoughts around it. Sometimes, even paraphrasing can be done – however, it should be done correctly and in your own words so as to not fall prey to plagiarism.
Give Credit Where It Is Due
Giving credit does not take anything away from your ability as a writer if you are using bits of an article or quotes that you found interesting. Use links to give the credit (For Example – like when using free photos) or use citations and quotation marks to mention the source. You could also mention the names and references at the end of your post if you have used them extensively and in cases where digital links are not available. In case you are reproducing an entire article or a major part of it, seek permission from the author.
Use A Plagiarism Checker
Lastly, make use of the Plagiarism Checker tools available online. Choose the one that you find most convenient based on your usage and run every post by it before you publish. Most of the tools offer a free version if you are a beginner and do not want to spend too much money. For more professional users, advanced checks are available with paid & premium versions.
With so many people publishing on the internet, there is bound to be some overlap. Search Engines understand this and allow for some amount of duplicate content. For example, common phrases will be used in the same way across different sites. Similarly, post titles can be similar sounding as well. Also, if many people are writing about the same topic then there is bound to be some amount of overlap in what they say. Let us take this post as an example. Many people writing about plagiarism will be sharing similar tips on tools to check because there are only that many available tools and many will have the same favorites. However, if you lift entire articles, or paragraphs, or even sentences and publish it verbatim as your work, then that is considered unethical.
So take a little care, continue writing and producing great & original content!