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.