Is Your Content Original Or Are You Guilty Of Plagiarism?

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.

Photo by Windows on Unsplash  

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.

Original Ideas

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!

This post is part of my ‘Tips For Budding Bloggers’ series. Other posts in this series include Reasons To Start Blogging and Tips To Write Great Blogs.

This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla and sponsored by Queen’s Brigade.

28 Comments

  1. That’s such a helpful post especially for the budding bloggers. I always check my articles on plagiarism checker before publishing.

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  2. A detailed and practically useful article on plagiarism that is sure to help us writers looking to avoid inadvertently publishing plagiarised content! I use both small SEO tools and grammarly.

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    1. Wow i had no idea on these apps and checkers that are available for checking content originality….thanks for this…its been incredibly useful for a new blogger like me…

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  3. This is often overlooked and for a blogger like me it’s great information. Ideas for blogpost might also match with others written previously but content should definitely be original amf truly yours.

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    1. Completely agree. You can be inspired by someone’s post but what you write has to be completely your own. If not, always quote and give due credit.

  4. This is a very important blog post. I have barely read any blogs on Plagiarism. I am sure many bloggers will benefit from your post. I use the same tools you have shared. Sometimes reading simple grammar mistakes, I feel like saying please use Grammarly but not many would take it positively, isn’t it? But glad u have shared it.

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    1. Ha ha. I have faced this too. Having looked at content for mistakes or editing it for over 15 years now, it is second nature to spot something that is incorrect. But yes, many don’t appreciate if we point it out and think Iam just being snooty 🙂

  5. This a very helpful article Vasumati! I as a blogger myself hate plagiarism and most of my content comes from my own tested recipes or with atleast my research or twist in it. I did not know that there are seo tools that help in detecting the same. Very informative article.

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  6. Thank you for addressing the elephant in the room! Most bloggers dont know that search engines flag blogs that are even remotely guilty of plagarism. hank you for writing this useful post!

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    1. I think some basic SEO course is necessary for all bloggers. It is not just about writing but also being found online. Many of the issues will get addressed and at least newbies will know something like this exists and then can later decide if they want to pursue it for their blog or not.

  7. So very helpful, though I always write from the heart but I never knew that you can check your content for duplicacy.. Thanks for sharing

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  8. Plagiarism is a crime and we should have proper laws to tackle the problem. I faced a couple of situations when someone picked up my content and pasted it on his website. We don’t even know how and where to complain about it.

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  9. Very useful post, Vasu! It breaks my heart to see people copy and pasting other’s content, without even giving them credits. You won’t believe someone was running a parallel Instagram page using my name and logo. Instead of putting in energy in copying other’s content, if they invest in learning a few things, they can surely do well. Research, references help to churn out the best content. With the Google policies like B.E.R.T and E.A.T google has become more selective with the duplicate content, Google will throw your blog post like garbage because there is something called page and domain authority. Very well put and I feel everyone should read this post.

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  10. That is terrible. And in your case it can have serious repercussions on reputation as well as you have established yourself as a mental health blogger. They may be using for financial gain as well.

  11. This is a very good and important post for budding bloggers. Bloggers can only grow with original content. Thanks for sharing apps and tools to check duplicate content.

  12. I have been at the receiving end of plagiarism way too many times. Both at work and on my blog. Some blatant and some “inspired”. I guess anyone from the creative field has to deal with it. The tools do work, but even Google flagging as duplicate content does not seem to deter most. It is more about ethics. As long as people think it is okay to copy, we will never see the end of it.

  13. Plagiarism has been going on for years. Earlier it was known as “inspiration”. Good to see that people are finally trying to put a stop to it. I have had my recipes directly copied on different websites.

  14. This post is must for a new blogger. Plagiarism can spoil the reputation and is not advisable. It can also not give the creative satisfaction that you yearn.

  15. As a journalist and blogger, I write a lot and I’ve developed certain methods that allow me to stay plagiarism-free. Some of these are of course mentioned in your post… I also avoid reading other content on similar topics to ensure I’m not inadvertently copying. Though of course this is not possible for research- based articles!

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Vasumathi

Blogger, Content Creator, Knowledge Facilitator, Hobby Photographer & Mom To A Naughty Dalmatian.