Don’t judge this post before you read it. I have an important story to share, and all I ask is that you read from start to finish. No skimming.
One day, probably about six months ago now, I was at my desk doing research for an article. To be honest, I don’t remember what the article was about. Let’s say it was about productivity tips. What I like to do, when I’m researching, is look at two different kinds of articles – those written by credible experts, and those from other sites who may have more to add to the idea.
From everything I read, I form my own bundle of main points for my article – a mixture of things I have read and ideas I have generated from others who have written about the same topic in the past – and write a completely original article based off of my “research.”
I have never, and never will, take someone else’s published article and paraphrase it. I honestly never thought this could be a thing people even did.
But that day I found an article written and published by a well-known expert in the field I was writing about. Not long after that, I found a different article published on a website on the same topic. It was one of those sites where pretty much anyone can apply to publish content for free and can sometimes write whatever they want.
The article on this site wasn’t the exact same as the well-known expert’s article. But all the subheadings covered the same ideas – just in different words. And all the information underneath those subheadings was pretty much the same – just paraphrased. The title may not have been the exact same, but it was pretty close, at least.
Think this is strange? I did. I still do.
Plagiarism is not just copying and pasting something directly from one place to another. That’s easy to detect. Copying someone else’s ideas, even not word for word, still counts. I’m no expert. But if I had written an article, and someone somewhere else had written virtually the same article going directly off mine, I would be upset. Wouldn’t you? If you did the research, if you created something original, and someone else just took your article and rewrote it without doing any extra research or thinking?
You’ve seen me advocate for writers on this blog plenty of times before. We work hard; we don’t get paid enough; we don’t get the recognition or respect or appreciation we deserve. I use general terms, because I like to think all writers are hard-working and honest and respectful of others’ work. But they aren’t.
There are many writers who work extremely hard to produce quality content online. They research. They outline. They understand that reproducing is not the same as creating. This writer, who rewrote someone else’s article and put their name on it, does not deserve that kind of respect. I can only guess they did it to have their name on something online – either that or they just didn’t know any better … but I doubt it.
This was months ago I stumbled upon this, and it still upsets me. Mainly because I probably could have at least tried to report it, and I didn’t. And now I don’t remember what the article was even about. More importantly, it made me aware that things like this probably happen all the time. It’s the internet – anything you publish will probably be copied by someone, somewhere. I don’t think that’s OK. There may be nothing I can do about it, but that doesn’t make it right.
Those of us who actually do our own work don’t deserve to have someone else take credit for it without our permission. I’m not going to go through every single article or blog post I’ve ever written and check to see if someone else has published it. But this is one of the reasons why writing as a career is so disrespected and unappreciated. It’s assumed that taking things from other places and publishing it elsewhere is just “the norm.” Maybe for some publications, maybe for some writers, but certainly not for me, or anyone else in the writing community I harbor respect for.
If you want respect and credibility as a writer, you’d better earn it. Never disrespect another writer by taking their ideas and making them their own. Just because there are people out there who do it doesn’t mean you should. And if you ever do see something like this, please, contact someone. Even if nothing ever comes of it, if you don’t at least try to alert a site admin or editor about it, you’re not doing anything to help the problem. You’re letting that person get away with this. Let’s not do that anymore. OK?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.