Plagiarism and the importance of citing the author

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is a very reprehensible practice in which one person deceptively copies the work of another without permission. It is the theft of works (total or partial) of a literary, scientific, or artistic nature.

It’s not just about submitting another author’s complete work as your own; copying and pasting other authors’ ideas or entire sentences without citing the source is also plagiarism (meaning, stealing).

 

So is using a quote from an author in your own words without putting it between quotation marks and referencing the author or providing incorrect sources for a quote.

Quotes and references not only make it easier to locate and identify the publications we have consulted but are also a way to prevent plagiarism by clearly distinguishing our work from that which others have published and may claim as their own. We are protecting our work and the work of others.

Citing sources according to the ethical principles of information use is a major requirement in the literary, scientific, technical, and journalistic domain.

Whether short or long, there are two main types of quotes:

  • direct quote: transcribing the words of an author verbatim, in exactly the same words as those used in the original text
  • indirect quote: conveying the idea or message of another author but in our own words (i.e., a paraphrase)

If you work in content writing, whether creative writing, copywriting, or even transcreation, you will certainly have written about topics that other authors have also written about and published, and you will certainly have consulted various sources to craft your text.

If you use direct quotes, regardless of whether the content is copyrighted, you must cite your sources.

Don’t think that paraphrasing is just swapping one or two words around or, in a longer quotation, swapping a few sentences around! Indirect quoting requires understanding, interpretation, and the ability to express yourself. It’s taking the concept and expressing it in your own words, rephrasing it completely. Otherwise, it will always be a direct quote with a twist.

The use of phrases from a third party that are translated without reference to the author because we believe we “own” the translation also constitutes plagiarism. It doesn’t matter if the source language was different, or if the translated words are yours—the original idea was not yours and you must give credit to the author.

Plagiarism is considered a crime under the Portuguese law and is punishable by up to 3 years in prison and monetary sanction. 👮‍♀️

Why do people do it? 🤷

Many people do it simply because copying is easier and less time-consuming. But there are other factors that contribute to the problem:

  • Lack of skills or insufficient skills
  • Lack of respect for others and for the work of others
  • Lack of creativity
  • Easy access to information
  • Short deadlines with not enough time to research and a lot of pressure to deliver

Avoid plagiarism! Plagiarism is hurtful…

Don’t let someone else take credit for work that is not theirs. We should respect the work of others as we would like them to respect ours.

Today, everything we write is based on something that has already been stated, discussed, and analyzed by others. But whenever we use quotes from published works, we must identify their authors not only out of respect for them, but also to demonstrate that we have conducted research based on reliable sources and to demonstrate our ethical conduct, our responsibility, and our integrity.

Plagiarism on the Internet is often taken lightly.

But whoever creates something is the author and owner of the creation—whether it’s a book, a film, a play, an oil painting, a sculpture, a dress, a medicine or a computer program, or whether it’s a blog, a website, a photoblog...

And it’s not only about intellectual property; it’s also about love. Because ideas are crafted, and often with blood, sweat, and tears.

What we see is only the end result. We can’t see all the effort that went into the creation of that work. It is terribly frustrating and insulting when someone steals your ideas, your creations.

Would you steal a wallet on the counter at a coffeeshop or a car in the parking lot just because it’s there?

All these creations are subject to intellectual property and copyright laws.

Copying them without the author’s permission is stealing.

So, if you come across a case of plagiarism, comment on it and/or report it.

Apocrypha

Nowadays, it has become quite “fashionable” to post inspirational phrases by famous authors on social media feeds.

Unfortunately, many of these phrases are attributed to great authors, classical and contemporary, who are not the real authors.

From sentences with spelling and grammatical errors, to poorly formulated sentences, “catch phrases” or sentences with that scent of “cliché,” to sentences written in Brazilian Portuguese attributed to the great poet Fernando Pessoa whose work, naturally, was all written in European Portuguese…

These are the so-called “Apocrypha,” in a clear allusion to the apocryphal gospels.

Think twice before publishing a quote attributed to author X or Y without first checking whether it is really theirs. In addition to publicly declaring that we have no knowledge whatsoever on the work of the author we are quoting, we will also be contributing to disseminating misinformation until it goes viral.

And no, Fernando Pessoa never “kept every stone thrown at him because there’s a castle to build”… 😂 (a quote famously but mistakenly attributed to Fernando Pessoa, in Portuguese and Brazilian social media).

Obviously, we can and should research, collect, and be inspired by other people’s ideas.

It’s part of the creative writing process (read more here).

We simply must not cross that fine line between inspiration and appropriation.

In other words, “Be inspired, but don’t copy!” (author unknown 🤓😉)

* Cover image by pikisuperstar on Freepik

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