Thursday, August 14, 2014

Citing Your Sources Guest Blog By Nikolos Baron

Citing Your Sources and Other Ways to Avoid Plagiarism
Plagiarism can be the death of your career. It can take a very promising career or an already established one and tear it down to nothing. Students have been kicked out of college and professors fired from their jobs over plagiarism. Some do not think it’s that big of a deal. “Who cares?” they whine. “Who is going to look for it? Nobody will even notice.” Nevertheless, a writer’s work is always scrutinized to the "nth" degree by editors, fellow writers, and readers. For this reason, someone will catch you eventually if you are guilty of plagiarism. It may not happen the first time or the second, but at some point, a good reader will notice that you have stolen material from someone else. For some people, “borrowing” from someone else's writing may seem like a good idea. These individuals may argue, “I want to explain it just like this author did,” or “I can’t think of a better way to show what I’m trying to say.” They might even admit, “This is better than I can do, and I’m too lazy to try to do it myself.” However, plagiarism is never a good idea. It will only make you enough money for bus fare in the writing world.
            So if plagiarism is such an easy trap to fall into, how do writers avoid it? There are many easy ways to avoid plagiarism. In fact, it’s easier to avoid plagiarism than commit it. Think about how long it would take you to find a good source to plagiarize from. Then you have to read the material, or at least find the spot you remember in the text, and copy it over. After spending all that time copying it over, you may think that you need to change it just a little bit to “confuse” the reader into believing you did not plagiarize, which takes more time. After all that time, would it be really worth all that effort to plagiarize? It’s much faster to write your own material and cite your sources. Taking a few extra minutes to think of your own description or analysis of what you want to write is more valuable than searching through Google.
Writers should take pride in the fact that they’ve come up with interesting, intriguing, and unique material, not that they found the best source to steal from. Writers should feel as if they have to write to express their ideas, make a change, or just inform people of important information. Writers should feel the need to give credit where credit’s due. Whenever you’re in doubt as a writer, always cite the material. Many editors and freelance employers I’ve had checked my work against websites like Plagium, CopyScape, and Grammarly. You will be fired if they find plagiarism in your work. Originality is what they’re looking for, not copy/paste. Writing your own material and citing your sources are always the best ways to avoid plagiarizing, even if it takes a little bit more time.
            I’ve noted some sources above that can be used to check your work for plagiarism. These programs check your work against tons of other sources to make sure it is clean and original. Although CopyScape and Plagium are dedicated to only finding plagiarized material, Grammarly offers many other services like a grammar and punctuation checker, context-optimized synonym generator, teaching tools, question and answer boards, and the ability to identify your most common errors and teach you how to avoid them. There are hundreds of free, online plagiarism checkers to take advantage of as a writer. There are also bunches of online bibliography tools, like Son of Citation Machine, that can help you easily put together your sources and teach you how to cite them within your text. All of the tools are free and easy to use--much easier than trying to plagiarize “gracefully.” Checking your work with a plagiarism checker along with citing sources and writing original material will save you from the career mistake that is plagiarism.

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

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