Very few content creators start a piece with the intent to plagiarize others. However, with tight deadlines, a lack of deep expertise on the subject and the allure of numerous experts online to draw from, sometimes what seems like a harmless “borrowing” of content can have major repercussions. If you thought plagiarism was something you left behind during your academic years, you should know that online, it’s more pervasive than ever; so much so, that even Google has had to step in and make its stance clear:
Scraping content, even with some modification, is against our spam policy.” “[Google has] many algorithms to go after such behaviors and demote site scraping content from other sites.” Duy Nguyen, a member of the Google Search Quality Team recently said in a YouTube video.
So how do you know if you’re inadvertently plagiarizing someone else’s material — or even your own? Fortunately, we’re here to help with seven of the most common types of plagiarism and how to avoid them:
Direct Copying and Pasting
Let’s start with the most severe first. A simple copy and paste of someone else’s words. This is the equivalent of outright stealing someone else’s content, ideas or words. At worst, this involves submitting someone else’s work entirely as your own but it can also mean copying and pasting large chunks of their content without crediting the original author or acknowledging them in the content itself.
This is a common type of plagiarism and many people, even some writers and journalists, don’t even realize it. It involves taking a core idea from someone else and presenting it in your own words. In the ase of AI, this often involves having the AI write something and then make a few small tweaks to ensure that the content is more “human-like”. Keep in mind that the AI is trained by being fed existing content of all kinds and it is only spitting out what it believes is the answer or solution to your inquiry. You can bet that Google’s algorithms are smart enough to sniff out the nuances of paraphrasing, as is Originality.AI.
Did you know that you can plagiarize yourself? It’s possible and it can happen to marketing agencies, website buyers or other content-centered businesses that handle a large volume of content consistently. Let’s say you wrote a considerable amount of content for a new dog park opening in your area. A few months later, you get a client who operates a doggy daycare. It would be tempting to reuse content that talked about the things that both of these items have in common, such as the importance of your furry friend getting enough exercise, how to play well with other dogs and so on. At the same time, you wrote both types of content so surely you can use your own thoughts and ideas for both, right?
Sure you can, if you cite them. And if you’re a professional writer, remember that when you’re hired to work for a client, the client owns the work you produce for them. Reusing content from one client for another is not only in poor taste but could also damage your reputation as a professional. Surely, given that you have such a way with words, you can create unique content that satisfies both without having to plagiarize from yourself.
This type of plagiarism is by far the most common type and happens if you don’t cite your sources (or don’t cite them correctly) or don’t quote the cited material. When you’re in a good writing “vibe” and you’re working hard to put your ideas out there, the stream of consciousness can make you forgetful about who said what. Always cite your sources and in the case of online publications, link back to them. Not only is it good netiquette, but it reinforces your authority as a true professional.
Mosaic plagiarism is a “patchwork” of your ideas and the original author’s ideas, sprinkled together. It can be hard to pull out what’s yours and what’s theirs. Most commonly this appears as a snippet taken from someone else’s work, but placed in your own sentence or stitched together with your own idea. It’s fine to weave ideas together in this way, but just be sure you cite correctly — yes, even if they’re your ideas!
If someone cites a source that doesn’t exist or is wrong, it’s considered a source-based plagiarism. This is more common where data and statistics are concerned as reports and other details can be skewed to show something that’s the complete opposite of what the actual study or example demonstrated. The extent of this type of plagiarism can extend into someone citing information that doesn’t exist or in trying to add credibility to their argument, cite a resource that points to the opposite result.
This type of plagiarism is the most severe and doesn’t just involve “borrowing” a piece here and there of someone else’s content, but outright stealing their content and submitting it as your own. Although it’s more common in academia, there are entire content mills that sell pieces of content to multiple buyers who simply copy and paste them into their blogs and pass them off as their own creation.
How to Avoid These Types of Plagiarism
Now that you have a better understanding about the different types of plagiarism, how can you avoid them in your own content? It’s simple: cite your sources, link back to the original, add in a footnote and give credit where it’s due. If you’re concerned about buying AI-generated content or hiring writers that exclusively use AI to handle their writing projects, do yourself a favor and sign up for Originality.AI. Originality.AI is designed to root out the tell-tale signs of AI-written content, including content written by the award-winning ChatGPT and other programs. Don’t risk your search engine ranking, your professional reputation or even your money. Get started today!