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Article on Writing
Plagiarism: What it is and How to Avoid it!
© 2001 Krista Barrett

Plagiarize - `To present the ideas or words of another as one's own''. (The New Merriam-Webster Dictionary - 1989)

With writer-outlets like,, and others offering us a chance to submit and 'publish' our writing, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, and get paid for it, I think it's easy for us to get excited and start writing anything and everything we can get our minds to focus on.

Recently, there has been a growing concern at the amount of plagiarism cropping up in articles. Perhaps it's due to a lack of knowledge and basic ignorance to the do's and don'ts of writing (especially non-fiction writing), or maybe it's the rush to get more writing submitted to make more money. All in all, I think it's happening without many writers realizing they're doing it and there is a need for concern here.

It's been said that all writers get their ideas/words from another writer. What we learn from reading is what we build on in writing. But that doesn't give us the right to use another's words without giving them the proper credit where credit is due.

The reason for this article? To warn everyone that there are specific steps that must be taken in order to ensure your articles are yours, and to save you from the possibility of legal/illegal situations that can arise if you don't write smart. So let's get started!

**Note: This article will mostly pertain to non-fiction writing, but fiction writers beware as well.

The steps to avoid plagiarism:

1. First and foremost, all information on the Internet is not 'free-for-all' to use at your leisure.

I think this is a very common misconception and understandably so.

The Internet has become a gateway to unending information. It's so easy to look up a subject or topic and find pages upon pages that offer you easy-to-use information for your articles. Some of you may say, "Well yeah I used some of that information but I changed it all to my own words." Sorry, that's not quite good enough according to what I've read on plagiarism (see (1) in the website listing at the bottom). Be aware of your writing and make sure that you are not copying another's words in any way. Yes, this can make writing very tricky but that's the challenge of it .

2. Permission MUST be obtained when using outside sources.

With any information that you glean from the Internet or any other source, you "must first ask permission to use the information from the source" (a) if you want to include it in your article/writing. You must wait until you have received confirmation of this permission. Also "ask how they would like their source information to be listed in your article" (b).

Also note, if you '...use substantial verbatim excerpts of words (quotes) or reproductions of graphs, tables, etc. that appear in other works, then not only must proper credit be given, but permission from the originator and/or rights holder must also be obtained. In a case such as this, as long as proper credit is given, the issue does not appear to be one of plagiarism. But also, in this case if the permission is not obtained, then the issue becomes one of copyright violation, not of plagiarism, and that is a completely different issue.' (quote from (and my thanks to) Richard Telofski of Kahuna Content)

3. How to include quotes and facts.

If you are including quotes from another source, you need to put quotations around it and then list your source in brackets immediately following the quote. Depending on how many quotes/facts you are adding to your article, you can either put the source information immediately following the quote or you can use a number/letter format to symbolize which source it is in your source index. Look at the following examples:

Joe Brown stated that "plagiarism is on the rise." (Joe Brown - no-name magazine 1989)


Joe Brown stated that "plagiarism is on the rise (1)."

4. The source index.

At the end of your article, you must include a `source index' - a list of all the sources informing the reader of where you obtained all your facts, quotes, etc.

Why the source index?

As Karen Wiesner (see source index for more info) puts it, "Readers need that source information:

1. because it tells them that you did your homework. That you're not relying on your own assumptions in this matter. That you went to experts in the field so you could impart this information to them,

2. and because it gives them somewhere to go and find out more if they're interested (c)."

She goes on to say, "If I'm using only one or two quotes, then I don't need to get specific permission, but I do always include what and who I quoted, and where I found the information in my quintessential source list. This provides my readers with a sense of trust in my reporting skills because I went to the experts to find the information I'm giving them, and also gives those I've quoted promotion (d)." Good steps for all of us to follow.

I hope that all of you will take precautions to avoid any conflicts/legal battles that could happen if you don't take the necessary steps in your writing.

***Disclaimer: Please note this article is written from a personal-opinion perspective and not legal opinion. If you are unsure of the legalities of your article information, then you should consult a qualified legal specialist.

Source Index for Quotes: Quotes (a-d) come from Karen Wiesner - ELECTRONIC PUBLISHER The Definitive Guide (The Most Complete Reference to Non-Subsidy E-Publishing), 2000 Edition by Karen S. Wiesner, published by Avid Press, LLC Electronic Publishing Q&A by Karen Wiesner, a monthly Inkspot column For more information about Karen Wiesner and her work, visit her web site at

Copyright © 2001 Krista Barrett. All rights reserved. Please contact author for permission to use this article (includes reprints in mailing lists, newsletters, and/or any other purpose/format) and give details of how and when it will be used. Any and all use of this article in any way without permission is prohibited under copyright law.

Author information: Krista Barrett writes a wide variety of articles on topics such as health issues, the craft of writing, short stories, poetry, recipes, and more. She has completed two fiction novels of the romance/drama genre and she is now working on her third fiction novel. She is the Managing Editor of a Writers Resource Site called WritersManual - drop by for a visit! To contact Krista, email,

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