Friday, 4 April 2008

We need to talk about Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a very serious offence in the academic world that I work in. All assessed work is submitted electronically and compared to the vast data bank for matching phrases. If you are accused of plagiarism you are required to attend an interview with the Head of Department and the Chair of the Examinations Board. If found guilty your work is zero rated, you fail the course and it is noted on your file with a Formal Warning.

We all read many blogs and I think that most people are fairly good about not taking photos or texts without permission. However, I think we need to examine our consciences about two areas that are more difficult to pin down as plagiarism.

The first area is Ideas.

I have been made painfully aware of this because in this post I took a thread from another blog and did not attribute it. I have apologised to the blog author and made sure that she is credited on the post. It was due to carelessness rather than malicious intent.

The second area is Style.

I read many, many blogs before I started The Magpie Files and as far as I am aware there were no other blogs like mine in June 2007. I have tried to create a distinctive, unique style which is carefully designed and coherent. I have thought very hard and the only posts that might infringe other authors are this one which is similar to posts by Carolyn at Willow House and this one which uses a trademark monkey – it was a deliberate homage and I acknowledged bb at the time. If there are any other posts where you feel that I might have unintentionally copied your blog style please contact me.

I would be grateful if you would think about the above points in relation to your own blog and ask yourself if aspects of your blog design imitate other people’s work.

It is much more satisfying to create something unique than to copy other people.

Try it.

14 comments:

peppermintpatcher said...

I agree entirely with your intention here. I hate to see my work somewhere else without acknowledgement. I would never knowingly plagarise. Having said that I am beginning to believe that there is nothing new under the sun and that I absorb wherever I go. These two beliefs mean that I question whether it is even possible to be completely unique. We are the sum of our parts and osmosis of ideas and thoughts is a very human trait.

blackbird said...

Well said, dear Alice.
Tis a fine line between homage and theft.
Homage comes with a hug.

MrM said...

On a separate note what does MrsM think of people who post as Anon when it is fairly clear who they are or could she not give a monkey's ?

Plagiarism was completely difficult in the classical world as one was expected to plagiarise, safe in the knowledge that the reader was fully expected to spot the reference and thereby the cleverness or general erudition and wit of the writer. Times have changed when originality is sometimes prized as being or more value than an educated mind. A judicious combination of both would be my preference.

Plus whatever MrsM wrote

twolimeleaves said...

Plagiarism is only one of the atrocities that I've seen of late. Downright theft of design work is too common for my liking and it bothers me immensely. I have become very wary about what work of mine I choose to reveal on my blog and that disappoints me because one of the things that I most love about blogging is the sharing. I hate it when some people ruin it for everyone. Pooh on them.

farm mom said...

Hmmm.....interesting post Alice. Makes me want to be sure I don't get on your bad side!! :) It's interesting how many different approaches one can have to the same media. While to you, it is an art form, to me it is more of a chronicle. I don't think I've ever had to have a concern for plagiarism because it is my life, possibly similar to others, but distinctly unlike anyone elses. But I could see how it may be a concern for you, although I have to admit, I have never seen another blog quite like yours! :)

BreadBox said...

Hmmmm..... looking at your post, and at the other posts to which you link, I must admit to not seeing such a problem as others might. Of course, if you feel you took an idea, you should give credit whence it came -- but your expression of the subtleties of that idea seem rather different from those of the originator (if such were she).
And with plagiarism, the definition in academia is often, even usually *not* the theft of ideas, but rather the theft of the *expression* of ideas.

And all I can say, is
Blog on, sister!
N

Sian said...

It is an excellent point and an interesting post. I am not certain that threads are so important because as Breadbox says the angle is different all the time. But yes original ideas and design should be protected...influence though, that is something else and altogether more difficult to ascertain.

carrie said...

I cried buckets when I found my content elsewhere -- without my knowledge. And it was DIRECT content, not just a post about the same subject! So, the copyright at the bottom of my blog was born . . .

That said, I often come across the same subject as I've written from another blogger. This happens more times than I would like, but it does tell me that although I think I'm original, maybe I'm not - so much. And then I feel a weird sort of guilt because I think that blogger will think I copied her idea (which is totally insane of me to think, but anyway).

Sorry for the ramble. I love your blog, and to me, there is nothing like it. :)

carrie said...

Additionally, Peppermintpatcher said what I was unable to so well . . .

dottycookie said...

I must be thick because in the two posts you mentioned I couldn't see that much similarity ...

I second (third?) what peppermintpatcher says - however much we try we are bound to be influenced by everything we see and hear and read. I try to just be me, and hope I don't upset anyone along the way.

Florence said...

Oh Alice! Reading this post has left me with that awful feeling that I get when I walk past a policeman - I KNOW I haven't murdered anyone, but his very presence makes me want to check behind me to check for bodies! And in this case...I know I haven't plagerised...but now I'm mentally sorting through all my old posts.

Police men aside, on to all things Magpie: Firstly, the link that you didn't acknowledge - I'd thought that was rather sweet of you, as though you hadn't wanted to embarass the original diatribe writer (I'm assuming that's the post that you are refering to?), as for the other links you put in - I think any similarity is tenuous to say the least...well sort of less than that, not there at all really.

I think, as someone else said, we absorb so much of the style of those around us, most particularly when we are fond of them and so a melding of styles is in some ways an inevitability. But I think that your style is very distinctive...and so could see how it could irk you to have that hijacked. The original is very nearly always the best though, and your blog will be no exception to that.

I must say that I simply love reading Mr M's comments, which are almost as inciteful as the original post...although I often only partially understand what he's talking about, but that just makes me love reading them all the more for how very curious he can be.

Anyway, I'm off to bed now! He he! x

thomas said...

In my profession I encounter a great deal of plagiarism, but I always try to ackowledge my sources. However, as a previous 'anon' perhaps I should take Mr M's strictures to heart and sign this!

driftwood said...

I now feel like Florence said "I hope I didn't do it". and I mean that..
It's so hard because apart from in Carrie's case I can't believe that anyone would intentionally steal content or ideas, and in fact by adopting a similar style they are in fact complimenting the original, and that the concept of plagiarism never occured - which doens't mean its ok of course, ignorance is no excuse.
Your blog and your style has always been one of my favourites, I love the way that you aren't afraid to tackle difficult issues, and you make us think outside of the box, thanks Alice.

Ginnie said...

Oh, dear! As Florence and Driftwood said, I hope it's not me. I love your style, and I hope if you ever feel I've behaved badly that you would rap my knuckles pretty quickly.

(And I like MrM's comments, especially the last line. As it should be.)