Wikipedia is a free resource for everyone. Because everyone can use it, copy it, and re-use it freely, it can't contain restricted, copyrighted material.
You probably know that copying-and-pasting from a book or website and claiming it as your own work is plagiarism. That's the most egregious example, but it isn't the only one.
The stakes of plagiarism are high. It could be a violation of your student code of conduct, and could get you banned from editing Wikipedia. On this article, we take a closer look at:
- Plagiarism, and
- Copyright violations
The two sometimes overlap.
Don't panic. On this page, we'll go over forms of plagiarism to make sure you don't stumble!
A note on plagiarism
Plagiarism is a scary word, and it's important to remember that it isn't a value judgment on you as a person. You might be thinking, "I'm a good person, I would never plagiarize!"
But as you will see, many people plagiarize by mistake, or simply don't know all the rules.
As you go through this orientation, remember that this is guidance to help you avoid falling into problems with the way you use the information in your sources.
It's not a statement about your integrity as a student!
Types of plagiarismEdit
There are three basic types of plagiarism:
- Unattributed plagiarism, where you copy text and don't credit the author.
- Plagiarism of cited sources, where you copy text exactly (even when you credit the author).
- Close paraphrasing, where you just slightly change the text of another author (cited or not).
Let's look at unattributed plagiarism first. This is generally the first thing that comes to mind with the word "plagiarism."
You don't want to present another writer's ideas as your own. That takes credit away from the author.
It also means presenting a statement without a cited source, and nothing on Wikipedia should be posted with a reference to a reliable source.
Plagiarism of cited sourcesEdit
Plagiarism can also mean passing off someone else's words as your own.
Even with proper credit, using full passages of another author's work is a copyright violation.
Except for very brief quotations that are essential to understanding a topic, copying content from copyrighted sources onto Wikipedia is against policy.
Instead, you should paraphrase the ideas and concepts you want to share on Wikipedia: present the information, phrased in a new way.
When you find good information for a Wikipedia article, you'll want to put it into your own words.
Make sure the words, and structure, of the information you share are substantially different from the source it came from.
Close paraphrasing is when the basic structure of a sentence or passage stays the same, even with small tweaks to the wording.
This is bad news, whether you cite it or not.
- Examples of close paraphrasing
Here's an example of "close paraphrasing."
- Because the weather forecast called for rain, the league decided to switch the location of the game to an indoor facility.
Close paraphrased text, not acceptable on Wikipedia:
- The league switched the game’s location to an indoor facility due to a weather forecast calling for rain.
- The league moved the match indoors to avoid forecasted rain.
In the close paraphrased text, a few words have been changed, and the sentence structure was flipped. That doesn't make it distinct enough from the original. The second text says the same thing but in an almost entirely unique way.
Avoiding close paraphrasing
Here are some tips to avoid close paraphrasing:
- Find a few different sources, and take notes in your own writing.
- Write notes like you were explaining the idea to a friend, rather than just transcribing the source.
- Don't write your article with your original sources open in front of you. Take careful notes, then reference your notes as you write your article. When you're done, re-read the article. This time, make frequent references to your original sources to verify that they're not too similar.
- Start by taking notes of key concepts, not phrases, from your sources, noting where each came from.
Wikipedia is a free resource that anyone can use. But don't assume that you can upload anything to Wikipedia.
In fact, because anyone can copy and re-use Wikipedia's content, it's crucial that you never upload any material that isn't explicitly allowed to be shared.
We already discussed copying and pasting material from an author, even with a citation, as being a copyright violation.
The same goes for using song lyrics, quotations, or copyrighted educational materials.
By now, you may have noticed that, in many ways, writing for Wikipedia is different to writing a traditional academic or school paper. The use of quotations is another difference.
In general, quotations on Wikipedia aren't very helpful. Whenever you're tempted to quote an author, ask yourself: What is my argument for quoting this directly, instead of paraphrasing it?
In some cases, such as writing about a famous speech, political theory, or other article that references a specific text, you may find compelling reasons to introduce a direct quotation.
If you do, be sure to cite it as you would any other source, and to include it within quotation marks
This basic introduction to plagiarism when editing on Wikipedia can also be found at this online link: https://outreachdashboard.wmflabs.org/training/editing-wikipedia/plagiarism