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In the content writing field, many writers simply paraphrase the content from a source, believing their content has become free of plagiarism issues.
However, it’s a misconception and such lack of knowledge can cost the writers not just money but even their respect in society.
So, for new writers, who are still not sure what all plagiarism entails, we will cover in this chapter,
What is Plagiarism in Professional Content Writing & How to Avoid It?
From Melania Trump, J.K. Rowling to Martin Luther King, all have been accused of plagiarism.
However, in the case of the former two ladies, both were filthy rich at the time of the complaint and had ample resources to defend themselves. In the latter case, the accused had already passed away when his act of plagiarism was discovered!
So unless you are the first lady of a country, a billionaire author or a deceased person, you should be worried about plagiarizing someone else’s content.
As a new writer, you may lose clients, jobs and reputation or even get embroiled in a lawsuit if your content is plagiarized.
As stated above, many writers misunderstand what plagiarism is, and unfortunately, get accused of it even when they have no intention of copying someone else’s work. (This is exactly what happened with Martin Luther King.)
For instance, if you believe that writing the sources can help you can avoid plagiarism, understand it’s only partially true.
So, it’s time you develop a solid understanding of plagiarism so that you can avoid it and protect your reputation.
What is Plagiarism
You can plagiarise content in the following three ways:
1. Plagiarism of Words
When you copy three or more consecutive “Content” words from another source it is called plagiarism. Function words such as and, is, are, of, etc. are not considered when you apply this rule.
Check out the example below:
Source: Discover Magazine
In the above example, the phrase “being used in science as a standard phrase” has all the eight words used consecutively by the writer. Overlooking function words like “in” and “as”, we still find content words like “being”, “used” and “science” used in the same order and context, making it a plagiarized content.
2. Plagiarism of Sentence Structure
When you write the same sentence but substitute a few words with their synonyms, it is called plagiarism.
Check out the example below:
Source: Evidence explained
In the above example, you can see that the author has replaced “during his career” with “in the course of his career”. Similarly, he has replaced “voluminous” with “vast”, keeping the structure same. This is how the plagiarism of sentence structure is done.
3. Copying Phrases Verbatim without Quotation Marks
When you copy phrases or sentences, word by word but without quotation marks, then it will be considered as plagiarism even if you cite the sources.
You either need to put the copied content in quotation marks and given citation or paraphrase the sentence and write it without quotation and with sources. Only then it will be plagiarism-free.
Check out the example below:
Source: Research Gate
In the above example, the student has copied the complete sentence, “The value….physical arrangement” from the manual. He has neither changed the structure nor used synonyms. Since the copied content is not in quotes and neither gives reference to the original source, it is an act of plagiarism.
What is Not Plagiarism?
Some writers have this misguided fear that whatever they write from an online source, it may get counted as plagiarised until they add a citation. However, that’s not true.
When You Write about a Commonly Known Fact
When you write about ideas that are an accepted fact or considered to be common knowledge, you don’t need to use any citation.
For example, “Delhi is the capital of India” is common knowledge. So, if you write this statement, you wouldn’t need to mention any citation.
Now, if it’s clear what all lead to plagiarism, below are some tips that you should follow to avoid plagiarism completely.
When You Paraphrase and Add Citation
If you take an idea from another source and paraphrase the content to remove “Words or Sentence Plagiarism” then also write citations or credit the original author for their ideas. Doing this will help avoid plagiarism.
However, you take an idea from another source and add your experiences or opinion then you are adding value. In such cases, you don’t need to give citations (except in a few cases like facts, stats, etc.)
When You Copy Verbatim
If you need to copy phrases or sentences as it is from another source, use quotation marks (“ “) and give citations. Without quotation marks, your content would be considered as plagiarism even if you give proper citations.
Tips to Avoid Plagiarism
Read and Make Notes of Key Points
The best way to write a plagiarism-free content is by following the effective writing process.
To brush up what all this process entails, check out our last blog, “Write Your First Piece of Content”.
As taught in that chapter, before you start writing your content, carry out a pre-writing process. Read, research, make notes of key ideas and compile them in your own language without referring to the original texts. When you complete your draft, read the original article to see if everything is covered.
If you follow this process, there is hardly ever going to be a case where you detect plagiarism in your content.
Use Quotation Marks
If you need to use words verbatim as they had been stated by the author, then put those phrases under quotation marks and cite the source. You can also add a hyperlink to the citation depending on the type of content you are writing.
Remember, when you quote someone, don’t paraphrase the quotation (even if it has mistakes). Quotes the phrases or sentences verbatim.
Use a Plagiarism Detection Software
Even if you have followed the effective steps of content writing, still run your content through a plagiarism detection software. This will help you screen those lines that by pure happenstance have a duplicate version online and are detected as plagiarized.
Plagiarism Detection Tools
This is the last section, where you will learn about the online tools that can help you detect plagiarism in your content.
For simplification, we have categorized the tools as Free and Paid.
Free Plagiarism Detection Tools
There are a host of free plagiarism detection tools available online. Just type “free plagiarism checker” in your Google search box, and you will get a whole list of all such tools.
These tools are always free. All you need to do paste your content in the space provided in these sites and click on check plagiarism. By highlighting the lines and displaying the source URL, these show which content is getting detected as plagiarized.
Word of Caution: Since these tools are free, their search algorithm is not very powerful and overlooks many online sources. So, you should use them when you write as a hobby or a personal blog. When writing for a client or for a serious business purpose, it’s preferable to use paid plagiarism checker software.
Paid Plagiarism Detection Tools
Copyscape is one of the most used premium software to check plagiarism. You can recharge your account with a predetermined credit amount and use the software until the amount is exhausted. The charges vary on the number of searches and length of content.
Generally, the charges are 3c per search (up to 200 words) with 1c per extra per 100 words.
Though Copyscape premium does great work, sometimes it fails to detect content from PDF files specially password-protected PDF files or those behind a paywall.
Thus, you should use Copyscape premium when writing for businesses, website content or any non-academic content. For academic content with more stringent plagiarism guidelines, its better to use advanced tools.
QueText is one of the best plagiarism checker available online. If you are an academic ghostwriter or writing an academic paper, then you should use this tool. The reason for its efficiency is that its software is very close to official plagiarism checker used by most of the universities.
It is priced at $10 per month. Many times articles that show no plagiarism on Copyscape, find a few hits when used on Quetext.
Turnitin is one of the most advanced plagiarism checkers and is the official plagiarism checker for most of the universities. It has an extensive database since it also checks the assignments and academic papers submitted by students to all the universities in the Turnitin network.
There is no free version of this and you will have access to this tool only when you are enrolled in a University. However, if you are a student and want to check your content for plagiarism before submitting it, you can use the official product of Turnitin; WriteCheck.
WriteCheck is quite expensive as compared to its other counterparts. However, in college when the stakes are quite high, you may use this software to check your university papers before submitting it officially to your University.
It also offers Grammar Check and tutoring but is primarily used for plagiarism detection by students.
Honesty in Your Actions is what Matters Most
You have done the research, written your content, so you would know how much originality your content has.
In the end,
The Best Software is Your Heart.
There can be some rare chances when a tool doesn’t detect plagiarism in your content in spite of it being from somewhere. In such cases, even if the world doesn’t know, you would always know in your heart it’s not your original work.
And that will never make you proud of your work.
So, try to follow the effective writing process and leave a mark by using your own words.
Has it ever happened that you wrote original content but still got accused of plagiarism by the client?
Do let us know if you have ever faced such a scenario.
We would love to tell you how to tackle such situations.