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Article Writing Plagiarism


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Recently, Dan Brown, the author of "The DaVinci Code", had to go to court over claims that he stole his ideas for the book and subsequent movie. To make a long story short, he won the case. But plagiarism is a problem. The question is, how fine a line is it between plagiarism and "common knowledge?" What exactly is plagiarism?

Here is the definition of plagiarism right out of the dictionary.

"n 1: a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work 2: the act of plagiarizing; taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own"

The obvious examples of plagiarism are just that, obvious. For example. Somebody has written an article on George Washington and in the article is a line that reads:

"From 1759 to the outbreak of the American Revolution, Washington managed his lands around Mount Vernon and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses"

Now, you've decided that you want to write an article about George Washington and present as many facts about him as possible. An obvious form of plagiarism would be to take the line above exactly as it is and stick it in your article. There is absolutely no doubt that you have plagiarized the article.

But then let's take another look at the definition.

"n 1: a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work 2: the act of plagiarizing; taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own"

Well, now we run into a gray area. According to the definition, copying isn't the only form of plagiarism. It also includes taking somebody's words or ideas and presenting them as if they were your own.

This brings up an interesting question. If a person wants to write an article about George Washington and wants to include the piece of information that from 1759 to the outbreak of the American Revolution he did whatever it was he did, how can you do this? Certainly this isn't your idea. You didn't think of it. This is simply a piece of history that you're reporting on. Can't you do that? If so, how? Can you simply reword the sentence? Some say no. Some say that even doing that you have to site the source you got the information from.

Well, what if you didn't get this information from a particular source? What if during your days in college you just happened to be a history buff and studied a lot about Washington and just happened to remember this thing that you learned. And, to make matters worse, the sentence you happened to come up with is almost identical to the one above? Did you plagiarize the work?

Let's submit an even more difficult example. You're writing about baseball, something that almost everybody knows about and you start your article off with the line "There are 9 innings in a regulation baseball game".

Pretty obvious statement. Certainly it's something that everybody knows and somewhere in the world, somebody wrote something on baseball and had a line that was similar to the one above if not identical.

Did you plagiarize the line?

Good question. Maybe that's why we have courts and lawyers.

Plagiarism is not always as clear cut and dried as you might think.

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Article Writing

 

 

 

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