For millennia people have known that nothing can be completely original, and that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Each book, play, or film is inspired by another work, and each song is inspired by another melody. Nevertheless, there is a huge difference between deriving an idea based on another idea, and taking someone else’s work and presenting it as your own. This is why we consider that something is original if it was created entirely by a person (or a group of people), and if it’s unique – or in other words, it doesn’t contain parts that are identical to works done by another person (or another group of people).
Copying someone else’s work without giving credit to the author, and presenting it as your original work, is plagiarism, and it’s not only frowned upon in every field – regardless of whether you are writing something creative, academic, or something for work, – but it can even be illegal in some situations. Plagiarism is considered a theft of the intellectual property of others, and it can bring lawsuits for rights, failed subjects at the university, and so on.
Technology has given us many advantages over the previous generations, and the ability to use a plagiarism checker to confirm that a writer hasn’t accidentally (or purposely) stolen someone else’s work, is a big one. Even though it’s still impossible to definitely and undoubtedly confirm that someone’s text was completely original, these tools are designed to go through a large amount of data to check if a part of the text has been copy-pasted.
Plagiarism checkers work by scanning your document and comparing it to a database of publications and websites. They are much more accurate than human eyes, and even than search engines. Using a plagiarism checker can help you detect any improperly quoted phrases or paraphrased text that’s too similar to the original. The tool will highlight any issue and give you a percentage match.
Knowing that everything has already been said, we could argue that all writing is rewriting. However, when your task is to publish an original article or complete a paper for school, even though you will be using other texts as sources, it should be easy to identify the sources you have used, unless you want to reference the original author and their work, in which case you should properly quote or paraphrase and acknowledge the source.
Rewriting means using synonyms to replace the same words used in the original text, without changing the content too much. However, you can’t simply swap out word for word and keep the structure of the sentence intact. Instead, you should create entirely new sentences. The new text should be different enough from the original so that the source isn’t recognizable.
It can be a struggle to remember where the source information you want to use is when you start writing something. This is why you should organize your sources immediately and make sure to transcribe them correctly. You should also quote the original sentence or paragraph and credit the authority/source through a citation or bibliographical reference.
However, you should make sure that it’s justified to add a quote, the quote isn’t too long, that it can be clearly distinguished from the rest of the text, and that you credit the original author with a bibliographic reference. Generally, quotes are written between double quotation marks, in italics, in a separate paragraph, etc.
Another common way writers use texts written by other writers, whether it’s to confirm some piece of information, support a theory, emphasize an idea, inspire, or any other reason, is by paraphrasing. To paraphrase essentially means to express a message or something stated by someone else, written or spoken, using your own words. To paraphrase properly, the writer must first read and understand to be able to properly synthesize the information and write it in their own words.
Incorrect paraphrasing that results in a text too similar to the original can be considered plagiarism. And so is paraphrasing without acknowledging the source of the information and without referencing the author of the original text.
Every text you create, whether it’s for school, for work, or as a fiction writer, should be original. We are all familiar with the copy/paste technique and, whether it’s to reference, inspire, paraphrase or quote, at some point, we all have copied and pasted a text or part of it to a text document in progress. However, plagiarism can not only discredit your work but may even result in legal disputes.