Plagiarism online is unfortunately a very common problem.  Over the last few years, there have been numerous circumstances where a blog or website has done a verbatim word for word copy of blog posts written by other authors/bloggers online.  These are clear-cut cases where plagiarism has occurred.  However, plagiarism doesn’t have to be a verbatim copy of a blog post, it can simply be the reuse of ideas or solutions that are not common without attribution.  According to the Plagiarism.org website, and the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, plagiarizing covers any of the following:

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
  • to use (another's production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

My undergraduate degree is in History, and during my time in school there were numerous times where someone failed to appropriately cite sources and as a result was failed from a class and either placed on academic probation, or even dismissed from the school entirely.  As a result I make it a point to provide attribution when I blog and two examples of how I do this are in the opening paragraph of this blog post.  It is really easy to cite your sources and as a blogger it is your responsibility to do so.

This applies to paraphrasing/summarizing blog material as well, though I am not a big fan of taking another person's work and rewriting it so that the same concept is shown, just to keep from plagiarizing the content word for word. Earlier this week I read a blog post and left a comment with a link to a blog post I wrote that provided the correct solution to the problem.  I even traded DM’s with the blog author on Twitter, so the last thing I expected was that this person would rewrite the solution I provided in my post on their blog the next day without providing any form of attribution.  A link has since been added after a number of DM’s pointing out that this was still plagiarism.  I don’t necessarily agree with someone reposting an entire concept without adding anything meaningful to the content, but if you are going to do this, at a bare minimum you have to provide attribution to your original source.

If you are a blogger and you are unsure, provide a reference as it only takes a second or two to do so.  Not citing sources doesn’t make you appear any smarter, quite to the contrary, not citing sources and getting caught for it makes you appear dishonest. 

There is no valid excuse for plagiarizing content or ideas.