Tackling Plagiarism: How Authors Can Remain on the Straight and Narrow Path
Plagiarism is a word which no Textbroker author ever wants to hear. Thankfully, this site instead chooses to employ the phrase “duplicate content” in its place. The good news is that any worthwhile writer will never intentionally plagiarise material. However, the majority of us have nonetheless encountered instances when texts have been returned for rectification; often due to similar material that has been found elsewhere within the digital ether of the Internet. How can such situations be kept to a minimum? Are there any methods to adopt and how can these be employed on a regular basis? Let us first take a look at the concept of unintentional (sometimes known as unconscious) plagiarism before examining some approaches engineered to proactively nip this problem in the bud.
What Exactly is Unintentional Plagiarism?
To be clear, the notion of unintentional plagiarism often crops up within academic circles; particularly when writing lengthy and potentially complicated research papers. The professionals at Duke University define this type of plagiarism as:
- Those who fail to quote a reference that is not common knowledge.
- Failing to attribute a direct quotation from a third-party source.
- Failing to properly paraphrase a text (more on this later).
- Directly copying a text without the proper attribution.
Notice here that the majority of observations mentioned above contained a derivative of the word “fail”. In other words, we are assuming that there was no malicious intent behind such instances. This is what is commonly referred to as unintentional plagiarism. Innocent or not, the fact of the matter is that such a mistake can damage the reputation of an author and cause a potentially loyal client to walk away. In repeated instances, the account of the author in question may even be terminated.
Now that we can appreciate the rather muddled nature of plagiarism, what are some common situations that can cause such an outcome? It is important to address these possibilities before delving into a handful of tried-and-tested solutions.
The Issue of Content Volume
Unintentional plagiarism is more likely to occur when an author has taken on a substantial amount of work; particularly if he or she has received numerous similar orders from the same author. One common example is multiple texts from a single source which each need to be “spun” in order to meet SEO requirements. Content spinning can be difficult in terms of the sheer workload involved. Not only is the writer likely to repeat specific phrases over time, but the fact of the matter is that important references might not be included. As the aptly-named website www.plagiarism.org highlights, failing to cite sources is a sure-fire way to be called out for plagiarism. Thus, authors need to be extremely diligent when tackling voluminous workloads.
Can an Author Self-Plagiarise?
It seems as if the gods of plagiarism are not without a sense of irony. Authors who produce dozens of articles or even more each day will tend to agree with this statement. We are all creatures of habit; myself included. When writing multiple texts for repeat clients, writers tend to fall back upon phrases and statements that they are comfortable with. Once again, this is a completely unconscious trait. While common in terms of vernacular, expressions such as “let’s take a closer look at”, “please feel free to contact one of our representatives” and “it is important to examine this topic in greater detail” can all appear to be plagiarised from a previous text; especially if they revolve around the same topic. This is why authors may receive a notification from Textbroker highlighting duplicated material only to soon realise that they have literally plagiarised themselves!
The Important Role of Paraphrasing
A third situation which can result in plagiarism involves an incorrect knowledge of the subject matter. When a writer is asked to deal with a difficult or unfamiliar topic, he or she is much more likely to rely heavily upon third-party sources. This can result in the unintentional (and direct) copying of content. In order to ensure that no plagiarism occurs, it is critical to become at least moderately familiar with the task at hand. Poor paraphrasing is another pitfall to recognise early on.
Top Suggestions to Avoid Plagiarising a Text
The good news is that the scenarios mentioned above can be mitigated with the proper knowledge and approaches. Many of these involve a combination of common sense alongside a dash of innovation. For instance, thorough proofreading and using long sentences sparingly are two logical suggestions. The experts at Just Publishing Advice recommend these additional steps:
- Try and vary similar sentences as much as possible.
- Keep paragraphs to a manageable length.
- Modify the structure of your text so that it physically differs from the source.
- Always be sure to perform an adequate amount of research in advance.
- Create a clear mental narrative.
- Compare your original material with the source text on a regular basis.
Another point to make involves situations when an extremely long text needs to be written. In the event that this text requires numerous citations, it is easy to lose track of what segments need to be cited. The best way to avoid such a mistake is to reference the phrase or source immediately after the sentence has been completed. You might otherwise be forced to spend an inordinate amount of time backtracking before the article will be accepted.
A Dose of Digital Help
Thankfully, authors have an arsenal of tools at their disposal if they know where to look. While Textbroker performs numerous automatic plagiarism checks in order to protect both the writer and the client, additional utilities can be extremely helpful. Some user-friendly online resources include (but are by no means limited to):
- Dupli Checker
- Copyleaks (free for up to 2,500 words per month)
- PaperRater (used in over 140 countries)
- Plagiarisma (great for research-related articles)
Of course, Copyscape is another excellent go-to resource which should never be overlooked. It is still important to mention that even the most advanced algorithms cannot replace old-fashioned due diligence before submitting content to Textbroker.
Modify Your Existing Writing Habits
It should finally be mentioned that many instances of unintentional plagiarism occur as a result of mental fatigue. This can often come to light when writing long blocks of similarly themed articles in succession. As a general rule of thumb, it is often wise to take a 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of writing in order avoid this type of repetitive mental “fog”. Other tricks include switching between multiple orders to provide your mind with varying mental perspectives and to walk away entirely if the content begins to feel forced or otherwise difficult to curate.
To be clear, no one is perfect. Incidents of unintentional plagiarism will likely occur from time to time. The main intention is therefore to lower the possibility of receiving a Textbroker email which reads “customer has a change request for an article”. All of the tools and suggestions mentioned above will undoubtedly come in handy if employed on a regular basis.
About our authorRon first arrived in Barcelona, Spain in 2007. Although initially pursuing a career in wealth management and finance, he learned that the content writing community provided the highest level of personal satisfaction while still being able to personally help clients. He has been a full-time professional writer since 2011. Some of his other interests include martial arts and bodybuilding.