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How to Check for Plagiarism

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Question: How to Check for Plagiarism

My editor insists that I check for plagiarism in my articles before turning them in. How do I do that?

Answer:

In my experience as a writer and working with sub-contractors, I've found that plagiarism is most often quite accidental.

For example, I had an expert give a quote that she had previously given to another writer, who had printed it. Although I would have quoted her anyway, and so it would not technically be a plagiarism issue, my editor would not have been happy to run the same quote as his competition! Recently, I had a writer pull a whole paragraph from an internet source, which he thought was ok, as we were footnoting anyway.

So how did I rescue both of these situations? Copyscape.

You see, I have this editing checklist, and one of the last items on my editing checklist is to run my pieces (and those of my subcontractors) through Copyscape.

You may be familiar with using Copyscape to make sure no one has stolen your blog or website verbiage, which is a free service that they offer. But did you know you can also check for plagiarism on up to 2,000 words of text? Here's how:

  1. Surf to Copyscape.
  2. Click on the "Premium" service.
  3. Sign up for membership.
  4. Purchase credits. It's very affordable; at press time $5.00 usd gets you 100 searches, and this is a valid business expense that you can write off.
  5. Log in with your new info.
  6. Once you're on the "Premium" page, surf about halfway down to the paste-in area that says "Paste Text Here."
  7. Copy a selection of text (up to 2,000 words) from your article, and paste it into the box.
  8. Copyscape will return a clean rating of "no results found," or ...
  9. Copyscape will return a listing of websites where your text was found.

Clean It Up

At this point, I generally would ask my writer to clean up the text (or do so myself, as the case may be). Copyscape will take you directly to the website where your text was found, and highlight the instances where the verbiage is too similar, and similarities occur too often.

Again, I've found this to be quite accidental in most writers' cases. For example, one writer was dealing with an article that was highly technical, and much of the verbiage simply couldn't be varied. My solution for him was to break the copy down into a different format than the website; we used a bulleted list, and changed some of the less technical terms. I also told him that sometimes there's only so many ways to say something, and a direct quotation is your only option.

There are other options available in addition to Copyscape. Find a web service or software that you are comfortable with, and perform a final plagiarism check before you turn anything in!

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