On Plagiarism and The Story Siren; Or, How to Not Plagiarize

As a fellow book blogger, I’m dismayed at the recent news that prominent YA book blogger, The Story Siren, has plagiarized. I won’t go into all the details, but if you’re interested, Lisa at Read.Breathe.Relax has given a good rundown of what happened.

Many of you might not know that I’m an academic as well as a general book blogger. I’m in a PhD program and teach composition at a well-ranked school. I’m faced with cases of plagiarism on a regular basis and find it interesting at the gamut of excuses I hear in defense of stealing others’ words:

1. It’s on the internet, so it’s free information.

2. I didn’t know copying and pasting was wrong.

3. I didn’t put it quotations, but I cited it.

4. It’s not plagiarism if I change a few words around.

5. I worked really hard on this paper.

The Digital Age gives us so much. Unfortunately, it also gives rise to plagiarism cases and students unable to tell the difference between right and wrong when they write. Too often I’m faced with students willing to gamble just to take the easy way out.

With that being said, The Story Siren’s blatant plagiarism is inexcusable. Yes, she made a mistake. Yes, she’s human. But she’s also a writer and knew very well what would happen if she got caught. It is hard for me to believe that it happened on accident. Accidents only happen to those who don’t know how to cite or what plagiarism even is. Before she took it down, she had a post on the horrors of plagiarism. This tells me that she knew what she was doing.

What is Plagiarism?

Pudue University’s Online Writing Lab defines plagiarism as “the uncredited use (both intentional and unintentional) of somebody else’s words or ideas” (Stolley and Brizee). What is key is that ideas can be plagiarized, not just words. We cannot take an idea like The Story Siren, change a few things around, and call it our own. We must come up with new contributions for old ideas. Purdue’s OWL has these helpful tips for helping to identify and prevent pagiarism:

“Develop a topic based on what has already been said and written    BUT   write something new and original.”

“Rely on experts’ and authorities’ opinions   BUT   improve upon and/or disagree with those opinions.”

“Give credit to previous researchers   BUT   make your own significant contributions.” (Stolley and Brizee)

The thing about plagiarism  is that there is this HUGE gray area. While some think that a paraphrase that looks too much like an original quote is plagiarism, some will look the other way. We have to be consistent in defining plagiarism otherwise we will never be able to put a dent in the number of times it is committed.

Elements of Plagiarism Inside and Outside the Classroom

1. Buying a paper.

2. Hiring someone to write your paper.

3. Copying and pasting large sections of text from the internet, a book, or any other medium.

4. Paraphrasing using words and sentence structure too similar to the original source.

5. Presenting another person’s ideas as  your own.

6. Not citing your sources.

In short, there are MANY ways to plagiarize. No matter if you are a student, an academic, or a book blogger, you need to be aware of what you’re writing and how you present yourself. Your credibility is on the line.

I’m not sure if The Story Siren will recover from this. I’ve heard lots of talk about abandoning participation in her memes and such. I’ve seen other bloggers say that they’ve stopped following her. Her credibility is in the tank at the moment and it will take a long time before she recovers. Unfortunately, the best way to keep someone from plagiarizing AGAIN is forcing them to deal with the consequences of plagiarism the first time.

A special thanks to the Purdue Online Writing Lab for their helpful information on plagiarism. I’ve linked to them above. However, in the interest of practicing what I preach, here’s my citation:

Stolley, Karl and Alan Brizee. “Avoiding Plagiarism.” Purdue Online Writing Lab. 24 Aug 2011. 24 April 2012. Web.



© 2012 – 2016, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.

  • Michelle Flores

    Great Post!!!

  • JessicaWorkman

    Thanks! Glad to have you here. 

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  • Elements of Plagiarism Inside and Outside the Classroom. – This part! Because there are actually people who claim that what she did isn’t plagiarism, which just hurts.

  • Ugh, I can only imagine how much you must have to deal with this being in academia. Back in college, I was a sort of TA for a class where the students had to turn out probably about 10 to 20 pages a week for the entire semester. It’s not a huge amount but for some that had never had really big papers, it was a lot. I cannot tell you how many episodes of plagiarism I saw in that class. It was amazing at how much people thought they could get away with. It was really sad. Like you said, the Digital Age has brought a lot of good with it but it also makes it easier for people to at least think they can take the easy way out (plagiarism will always be caught).

    What I also saw in that class is that once a person plagiarized, all of the TAs always thought of that person as a cheater. It’s hard to change that once you have that title.

    • JessicaWorkman

      Yeah, it gets a little daunting. Although, I can say that now that I’m teaching my own classes the numbers have gone down quite a bit. I saw SO many as a TA. I think it has to do with class size. You’re usually a TA for large classes where they feel anonymous. Plagiarism becomes less of a big deal if they feel like you don’t know them.

      Although, what they didn’t know was that the TA’s had an information network. If Turnitin.com came back and said the paper had been used in another class, I could easily find out who it was through the underground TA network. We were like superheroes. Fighting plagiarism one paper at a time.

  • JessicaWorkman

    Every time I read something saying that, it stabs me. It does, indeed, hurt. 

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