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  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    What makes something Plagiarism?

    When does your own writing become Plagiarism of someone else's work?

    Let's say I read an article in one or more newspapers about a current news event (e.g. "Tax Deal Set to Pass Senate"), and then I paraphrase and/or summarize said event in my own words.

    When would doing that cross the line into the realm of "plagiarism"??

    I chose a "current news event" because the reality is that unless you are a.) A member of the White House Press Corp or b.) Paying for live news feeds from AP or Reuters, the only way you can write about such a topic is to "re-hash" what others have already written about. Right?!

    When I was in school, I was taught that it is not "plagiarism" if...

    1.) You put things into your own words,

    2.) Your writing style is noticeably different (e.g. not just swapping out words)

    3.) You cite the source you are using to create your piece (i.e. giving credit to your sources)

    This still seems like a pretty good "litmus test", but this is obviously a pretty subjective topic?!

    I would argue that *most* of what you read is being re-hashed from what some else originally reported on. (This is even more true with the advent of the Internet. Why? Because we may now all be connected via the World Wide Web, but the reality is that only a lucky few actually *witness* news in action!!)

    So, if I want to write about the news and current events, then I will have to re-hash what others have already researched and reported on.

    Of course, my goal is to put Debbie's "spin" on things so that my work is indeed *unique* and thus not "plagiarizing" anyone else's work!

    Your help on this topic would be greatly appreciated!!

    Thanks,


    Debbie

  2. #2
    Non-Member Kalon's Avatar
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    my understanding is that as long as you don't copy something and claim it as your own you might be ok. if in doubt, credit the source just in case.

    if this is in relation to concerns about being potentially sued for plagiarism then my best advice would be to get proper legal advice regardless of any advice you get in forums like this because if you do end up being sued I doubt saying so-and-so at sitepoint told me it was ok will be valid defence.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalon View Post
    my understanding is that as long as you don't copy something and claim it as your own you might be ok. if in doubt, credit the source just in case.

    if this is in relation to concerns about being potentially sued for plagiarism then my best advice would be to get proper legal advice regardless of any advice you get in forums like this because if you do end up being sued I doubt saying so-and-so at sitepoint told me it was ok will be valid defence.
    So does this mean you wouldn't "fight for my honor", Kalon?!


    Debbie

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    Non-Member Kalon's Avatar
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    I'll come and visit if you post which jail you're in

  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalon View Post
    I'll come and visit if you post which jail you're in
    HAH!!!

    Maybe with all of that extra time I'll have on my hands, we can figure out what that damn logo is gonna cost!!


    Debbie

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    Plagiarism, in general terms, is where you copy a piece of work and pass it off as your own. Where you rehash another person's work, you're more likely to fall foul of copyright laws as you don't have to plagiarise to be guilty of copyright infringement.
    If you're looking to avoid both offences, then, taking your news analogy as an example, you could write about what all the various sources are saying about a topic and provide a commentary on their reporting. Better still would be to piuint out what you think they missed or highlight common themes or underlying messages. in this way, your work can be argued to be original, and more inspired by the work of others than based upon it.

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    Better still would be to piuint out what you think they missed or highlight common themes or underlying messages. in this way, your work can be argued to be original, and more inspired by the work of others than based upon it.
    Good point. You're reporting on what the reporting is missing.

    I chose a "current news event" because the reality is that unless you are a.) A member of the White House Press Corp or b.) Paying for live news feeds from AP or Reuters, the only way you can write about such a topic is to "re-hash" what others have already written about. Right?!
    Wrong. For a video product on doing business in Vietnam, I contacted people who testify as experts before congress.

    My cost? Three bucks in phone bills. That was before Skype, widespread email addresses, or voice over IP. Now your cost for doing the same thing today is pretty close to ZERO.

    What we're really talking about is impoverished imagination and utter laziness -- Not Plagiarism. Any plagiarism or copyright infringement is merely a symptom.

    What the Washington press corps get -- complained about incessantly -- is canned “talking points.” In other words, rubbish. You can do a better job looking up and calling the people (non politicos) behind the event and ask more in-depth questions yourself.

    For example, with Vietnam, there was nothing about the actual hard work of getting things accomplished -- what works, what doesn't. And given the U.S. was a laggard, there was a lot of experience from other countries already doing business there. People were talking about doing business in Vietnam like it was Minneapolis -- or Chinatown. ...and failing badly.

    Regurgitating talking points like a parrot gets you nothing but the reputation for being a parrot. Just like the well earned reputation of the Washington press corps.

    Quite often even the guys with big wigs on their shows can't get a straight answer because the politico being interviewed is electioneering. The talking points they repeat don't even relate to the topic. And you want to put that in your own words?!

    As for how, that's simplest of all. Pretend you're searching for porn (or LOLcats, or Bacon Shrines, Games you can hide on a work computer, or given the unsavory tendencies of the SitePoint crowd The Church of Google a.k.a SEObsessive Compulsive disorder), and then change the subject. If people applied one tenth the skills they've ammassed doing nonsensical things on the internet to actual real life issues, we'd be colonizing Mars right about now.

    And as for developing leads and getting people to talk to you ....hello social networking faddism? ....HELLO?! Time to WORK. It's cute people use the things as an electric junk drawer for business cards; but c'mon.

  8. #8
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    There is a fine line when determining what constitutes plagiarism. As a trained Journalist I can tell you that when covering a NEWS EVENT there are many FACTS which are going to sound the same because they are FACTS and can't change. What will differ is the way the story is presented. The events will not change, neither will the FIVE W's, what establishes the difference is how a particular Journalist tells the story. When you copy word for word what another Journalist wrote, THAT is plagiarism. Writing about the same accident, campaign, or any other current event is NOT.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmdweb View Post
    Plagiarism, in general terms, is where you copy a piece of work and pass it off as your own. Where you rehash another person's work, you're more likely to fall foul of copyright laws as you don't have to plagiarise to be guilty of copyright infringement.
    Ewww... good point!!!


    If you're looking to avoid both offences, then, taking your news analogy as an example, you could write about what all the various sources are saying about a topic and provide a commentary on their reporting.
    Which is basically what you do when you write a term paper, right?!

    You go read a whole bunch of books and articles on George Washington, and then you try to come up with a summary along with your own angle, right?


    Better still would be to piuint out what you think they missed or highlight common themes or underlying messages. in this way, your work can be argued to be original, and more inspired by the work of others than based upon it.
    Well, that was sorta what I was thinking.

    Maybe I read all of the articles in the news on Wikileaks and then I provide my own angle on it?

    Or maybe I summarize all of the comments on the recent football game, and I insert my own comments and opinions?



    Debbie

  10. #10
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    DCrux, I really liked your response as well!


    Quote Originally Posted by DCrux View Post
    Good point. You're reporting on what the reporting is missing.
    Okay.


    Wrong. For a video product on doing business in Vietnam, I contacted people who testify as experts before congress.

    My cost? Three bucks in phone bills. That was before Skype, widespread email addresses, or voice over IP. Now your cost for doing the same thing today is pretty close to ZERO.
    Are you trying to turn me into a journalist?!

    You have a valid point. I guess asking other people's opinions and experiences - especially if they know what in the hell they are talking about - is a good angle!

    But seriously, do you think computer and business experts and maybe even politicians at a state level would talk to little ol' me??? (And for free??)

    Maybe that was to a large degree the origins of my original post...

    How else could a mere mortal like me - who doesn't work for the NY Times - get a scoop from other relevant people??


    What we're really talking about is impoverished imagination and utter laziness -- Not Plagiarism. Any plagiarism or copyright infringement is merely a symptom.
    You may be on to something.

    I guess you had to be alive back in the era of Walter Cronkite and before to get a better appreciation for true journalism.


    What the Washington press corps get -- complained about incessantly -- is canned “talking points.” In other words, rubbish. You can do a better job looking up and calling the people (non politicos) behind the event and ask more in-depth questions yourself.

    For example, with Vietnam, there was nothing about the actual hard work of getting things accomplished -- what works, what doesn't. And given the U.S. was a laggard, there was a lot of experience from other countries already doing business there. People were talking about doing business in Vietnam like it was Minneapolis -- or Chinatown. ...and failing badly.
    Okay, but you sound like a journalist or some important "Talking HEad" if you can get that info.

    What about a peon like me??


    Regurgitating talking points like a parrot gets you nothing but the reputation for being a parrot. Just like the well earned reputation of the Washington press corps.

    Quite often even the guys with big wigs on their shows can't get a straight answer because the politico being interviewed is electioneering. The talking points they repeat don't even relate to the topic. And you want to put that in your own words?!
    Well, I must say that I really enjoy reading some of the Op-Eds in the NY Times because the columnists take very common topic s and ideas and put a really unique spin/angle on things.


    As for how, that's simplest of all. Pretend you're searching for porn (or LOLcats, or Bacon Shrines, Games you can hide on a work computer, or given the unsavory tendencies of the SitePoint crowd The Church of Google a.k.a SEObsessive Compulsive disorder), and then change the subject. If people applied one tenth the skills they've ammassed doing nonsensical things on the internet to actual real life issues, we'd be colonizing Mars right about now.
    You sorta lost me there. (Must be a guy analogy?!)

    I guess you were saying that if I just roll up my sleeves and start talking with people "in the know" that they will open up and help me write more original and insightful pieces??

    (BTW, I loved that "Church of Google" link!)


    And as for developing leads and getting people to talk to you ....hello social networking faddism? ....HELLO?! Time to WORK. It's cute people use the things as an electric junk drawer for business cards; but c'mon.
    Again, I'm not following you...

    I personally HATE Social Media, but I do enjoy talking to people face-to-face and on the telephone.

    Thanks for your comments!



    Debbie

  11. #11
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    What about a peon like me??
    All I had was a telephone. No rep. No street cred. No credentials. What got me a lot further was researching my subject and demonstrating interest.

    I do enjoy talking to people face-to-face and on the telephone.
    You are head and shoulders above the people trying to get Henry Kissinger interested in their Farmville accomplishments.

    Sad and pathetic is social. ...Just not social in any way that counts. Social networks Work For a Living. Otherwise you're stealing time away from getting high with friends in your parents basement with this Facebook and Linkedin nonsense.

  12. #12
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by articlewriter View Post
    There is a fine line when determining what constitutes plagiarism. As a trained Journalist I can tell you that when covering a NEWS EVENT there are many FACTS which are going to sound the same because they are FACTS and can't change. What will differ is the way the story is presented. The events will not change, neither will the FIVE W's, what establishes the difference is how a particular Journalist tells the story. When you copy word for word what another Journalist wrote, THAT is plagiarism. Writing about the same accident, campaign, or any other current event is NOT.
    True. But the challenge is this...

    The 5 W's - as you put it - for President Abraham Lincoln being shot won't change, but if you were at the theater that night it sure will change things!! (I was originally going to say Sept 11, but with all of the 24/7 Cable/Internet coverage, in some ways it was like you were there even if you live in Fargo, North Dakota...)

    If I wanted to comment on or report on or whatever on some major news topic (e.g. WikiLeaks, North Korea attacking South Korea, Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, etc) then I am pretty dependent on what is already out there unless I can go back in time or fly to one of those places (or get access to a jail cell in Sweden).

    I think DCrux was encouraging me to become a reporter and reach out to people, but I still fear that too many news items - and the people surrounding them - are just too important to let me get involved.


    Debbie

  13. #13
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCrux View Post
    All I had was a telephone. No rep. No street cred. No credentials. What got me a lot further was researching my subject and demonstrating interest.
    Don't forget to add "courage"!!

    So if I can be nosy... why were you contacting people in Vietnam about opening up businesses?! (Unless that is where you live!)

    Are you a journalist?

    Or do you run some big website like on International Business?


    You are head and shoulders above the people trying to get Henry Kissinger interested in their Farmville accomplishments.
    I've lately thought it would be fun to go back to college and take some journalism classes. (But in the mean time I am trying to figure out a strategy to get my business going.)

    It sounds like you are saying just grab the bull by the horns and start reaching out to people?


    Debbie

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    ...why were you contacting people in Vietnam about opening up businesses?!
    It was an exercise in controversy and publicity. Essentially I figured it would be interesting for generating publicity. And it did do that.

    Not a journalist. Not a big international jetset business mogul. I don't even have a volcanic island lair with hidden base filled with minions to do my bidding.

    Don't forget to add "courage"!!
    That would be important. I do not favor the current zeitgeist of white knuckle, weak-kneed poltroonism most feel is the firm basis of success.

    ...Marketing has turned into the cowardice of hoping for a sale (without ever "yuck" doing sales).

    ...Writing isn't something you pull out of your mind. It's something you can run your cursor over, copy and paste.

    ...And design is whatever horrific thing the client's secretary -- who did her wedding invites in Word -- tells you to do.

    It takes a certain amount of courage just to get out of bed each day. If you can't summon the full measure needed to make a business a success, you're preparing it for failure.

    Americans coined the phrase "to make money." It is not the running of a printing press. It is the courage to create value by looking at the market and saying it is missing a vital offering.

    You offer a competitive advantage against competition, and that is courage. Yelling "Me Too" never inspired anybody.

    Writing takes some courage. And so it makes no one wonder at the popularity of scraping (with or without software).

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    I can tell you that when covering a NEWS EVENT there are many FACTS which are going to sound the same because they are FACTS and can't change.
    Ah yes, facts. The religion of journalism.

    Hey, if somebody else printed it -- That Is a FACT. (There can be no disputing the fact it got printed). Unfortunately, everything else is in play.

    ...And if certain facts don't get printed (by somebody else first), well they must not be important facts. The preamble to the "everybody was doing it" explanation of the press coverage of the Iraq war. And the banking debacle.

    If you're a fan of journalism's amusing interpretation of what a FACT is, you will love the movie "Absence of Malice." Pure fiction, leaked by prosecutor, becomes the FACT that the prosecutor put it out there -- true, false, doesn't matter.

    The only reality is who can sue, and for what.

    That someone says the sky is plaid can marvelously transmute into the FACT somebody said "the sky is plaid," in Journalism World. I often wonder what color the sky is in that world.

    Related:

    The News as Myth: Fact and Context in Journalism (Contributions to the Study of Mass Media and Communications) "... Koch effectively argues that reporters rarely investigate original incidents of crimes and over-rely on questionable explanations by police and other official sources."

    The news. We commonly accept it as fact, but there are many times when journalists are compelled to cross and recross the fine line between true fiction and false truth to get the "real" story. Koch argues that "the myth of the news is its supposed objectivity" and that the very forms which presumably guarantee veracity ultimately lead to incomplete and misleading "false truths."

  16. #16
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleDee View Post
    I still fear that too many news items - and the people surrounding them - are just too important to let me get involved.


    Debbie
    Consider subscribing to Press Releases within your area(s) of interest. The people who submit them want to be contacted by a writer who will write a detailed account of their news.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

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    want to be contacted
    They want money. They want free ad space to produce more sales. They want customers to throw their wallets at them ...wordlessly. Being contacted ...not so much.

    Get a teleworker job. That'll allow you to remove yourself from the backbone transplant list; and in so doing will allow a deserving politico to move higher.

  18. #18
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCrux View Post
    Get a teleworker job. That'll allow you to remove yourself from the backbone transplant list; and in so doing will allow a deserving politico to move higher.
    I'm not quite sure what you mean by this, but I don't deserve your insult. Many press releases are worthy of further investigation and can turn out to be good stories, not necessarily commercial. Having that much in hand can help a young writer get beyond the "cold call" stage.

    You go ahead and do things your way. If it works for you, super! Just don't criticize if I or others take another tack. If everyone did everything the same way we'd all end up with a lot of the same things, wouldn't we. Kind of like copy/paste.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  19. #19
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCrux View Post
    ...Marketing has turned into the cowardice of hoping for a sale (without ever "yuck" doing sales).

    ...Writing isn't something you pull out of your mind. It's something you can run your cursor over, copy and paste.

    ...And design is whatever horrific thing the client's secretary -- who did her wedding invites in Word -- tells you to do.

    It takes a certain amount of courage just to get out of bed each day. If you can't summon the full measure needed to make a business a success, you're preparing it for failure.
    True.


    Americans coined the phrase "to make money." It is not the running of a printing press. It is the courage to create value by looking at the market and saying it is missing a vital offering.
    Do you live in the U.S. or somewhere else?


    You offer a competitive advantage against competition, and that is courage. Yelling "Me Too" never inspired anybody.
    That is my goal!

    Boy, you certainly are not a fan of modern media and journalism, are you?!



    Debbie


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