Wednesday, 19 March 2014

How to avoid plagiarism

Plagiarism and the need for ethical reporting and true professionalism have been continuously on the agenda during the training days.

The website lists the following examples as plagiarism:
Turning in someone else’s work as your own

Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit

Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks

Changing words but copying the sentence structure without giving credit

Copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not
For most journalists, editors and lecturers in class, the previous examples sound too familiar.

Then how can you avoid plagiarizing? In most cases by citing sources. By simply explaining that a part of the material has been borrowed, and providing your audience the information necessary to find the original source. That’s usually enough to prevent plagiarism.

Plagiarism has never been as easy as it is today. Before the internet, potential plagiarists would have had to go to the library and copy texts from books by hand. But the internet now makes it easy to find thousands of relevant sources in seconds, and in a few minutes one could find, copy and paste together an entire seminar paper, or a feature story.

But there’s no point in copy-pasting. You just make a much better story by writing in your own style and words. An editor or a teacher should also easily recognize passages that are directly copied, from the vocabulary used.

Journalists in any country caught plagiarizing can get sacked. If you are copying someone else’s story for an article published in your own name, you might also get sued for copyright infringement and be forced to pay heavy compensation. The same goes for publishing a photo without the permission of the copyright owner. In most of the world, the length of the copyright is usually 50 or 70 years after the death of the author. In Tanzania, 50 years.

The recommendation was that all participants would take their time and read the Tanzanian Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act from 1999, found here as a PDF file on a UNESCO web portal where they have collected the copyright laws from most countries.

Here’s another link to a good BBC story about plagiarism, how easy it is, and how easily it can be detected.

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