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Do not plagiarize

The most common reason I hear about for removing Devtome writers is that they were caught plagiarizing. Plagiarism is taking someone else's content and presenting it as one's own. It is illegal, unethical, and definitely not wanted on the Devtome.

There are a number of ways that people plagiarize, including copying an entire article word for word, lifting entire sentences from articles and combining them with their own or other people's sentences, spinning an article, or lifting sentences or paragraphs but altering the wording. Some of these forms of plagiarism have been touted as ways to build an online presence or generate traffic. However even search engine optimization and link building specialists say these methods backfire. If you are a new Devtome writer they assuredly will land your account in the virtual circular file.

Is all copying of others' work wrong?

There are times when it is fine to copy material from another article and use it in your own work. A very common way is by using a direct quote. Sometimes (or perhaps quite often) you can't make the point as well or as humorously as someone else did. For example, in his article Devtome writer rules read me first fellow Devtome admin Raptorak had this to say about plagiarism: As writers ourselves, this is something that many of us have absolutely no respect for. I am quoting this line from his article because I couldn't say it better myself and as a way to illustrate the direct quote.

The passage that is directly quoted is put in quotes or italics and the original author is clearly designated. When you read my quotation of Raptorak's sentence, you are left with no doubt in your mind that I did not compose that particular part of this article; he did. In other words, I have given him full credit for his contribution and have in no way pretended that it's mine.

It is fine to use direct quotes here. We just ask that you consider the fact that the Devtome pays by the word. Please directly quote the smallest possible amount that is possible to make the point you want to make and no more. If you provide a link to the source article (and you should) the reader can always go to the article and read the rest. In fact we like to see that happen on the Devtome.

Another time that it's OK to draw on someone else's material is in citing specific facts that you yourself do not know first hand but which others have studied in some objective way. For example, a survey conducted by Josephson Institute of Ethics indicates that one out of three high school students has used the Internet to plagiarize a school assignment. For me to use this statistic in my article I need to clearly cite the source because I did not personally survey 43,000 high school students to learn this information; the Josephson Institute of Ethics did. If I want to use the information in this article, I need to give credit to the ones who did the work to figure it out. Here I have done this by naming the organization which conducted the study and providing a link to a webpage which published the organization's press release.

We want your unique voice

I recently received an application from a potential writer who made a point to tell me that all his work passed Copyscape. Really? I'm supposed to be impressed? If you feel the need to run your own work through a plagiarism checker, odds are very good that we are not interested in it. Why? Because if the piece of writing was truly composed by you, then the odds of another individual, even on the vast Internet, composing and publishing the exact same combination of words you used are slim to none.

Original writing is unique writing. Even if you are writing about a topic which many others have addressed, you can treat this topic in a brand new way that no one else has ever done before. In fact you will if you don't cheat. You will bring your own unique perspective to your work, and it's that unique perspective we're looking for.

To further illustrate, I'm going to cite a couple of examples from my own work published on the Devtome.

Example one: abortion

Can you think of a topic which has been more thoroughly discussed, debated, and otherwise treated from every possible angle? People writing persuasive papers on either side of the issue could easily find and rework existing material making their work appear to be original. But what the Devtome really values is an original perspective or experience with the topic. I personally was very involved in the pro-life movement for several years and wrote about my experiences in this article titled An inside look. I can guarantee without using a plagiarism checker that no one else has written an article quite like this one, because no one else has had exactly the same experience I have had.

If you want to write about a well known topic such as abortion, the death penalty, the morality (or lack thereof) of war, environmentalism, or free enterprise vs. socialism, instead of treating it as a research or persuasive paper, why not start by sharing your own experience and perspective with that topic? In any case, be sure to bring out and highlight the part you bring to the table that is unique to you. It can be your own experience or your own unique perspective on the research and experiences of others (all properly cited of course).

Example two: daily wages

You might not be able to add much to what someone else has already written on a particular topic they have clearly spent a lot of time on. Take this lengthy blog post on the Biblical principle of daily wages, for example. The author makes a compelling case for why employers should pay their employees daily, and cites numerous Scripture passages to back up his claim. Clearly the author cares deeply about this topic and has researched it well.

I personally don't have anymore to say about what the Bible says about paying employees daily wages. That work has already been done. However, I was able to add a new perspective in my own article titled The Bible, Law of Attraction, and the Devtome by relating this Biblical principle to the Law of Attraction, my experience as a paid Devtome writer, and my experience with financial hardship. The original author never once mentions the Law of Attraction, has not lived my experiences, and I doubt he knows anything about writing for the Devtome (unless he followed the pingback and read my article!). This makes my article unique and original, even though it is about a topic which has already been covered.

The Devtome project is all about original writing. The Devtome is looking for that unique perspective that only you have. We want your voice and your spark. We do not want a mere rewriting of someone else's voice or spark, or even an assortment of several other authors' voice and spark.

While it's certainly not wrong to run your work through a plagiarism checker, consider this: If you even have to ask, then is the work you are about to publish truly original?

I never run my own work through a plagiarism checker. I don't need to because I know the source of my work. You should too. A good rule of thumb is if in doubt, don't publish. You will know when your work is truly original without having to check.

What about previously written content?

Many writers come to the Devtome with material they have previously written. It is certainly OK to use that material. You just need to make sure that the Devtome admins know that any previously published work is your work and not something you just copied. On your invoice page, be sure to cite the web page where your material is already published instead of “original.” For example, I also publish most of my Devtome articles on my own websites, so I cite the page of the website as the source on my invoice page. Here is a typical article citation:

Be prepared to prove your ownership or control of the page you cite in your invoice. Earnings admins do check. If an earnings admin runs a plagiarism check on your work and a website which you have not cited comes up, he or she reserves the right to delete your writer account for plagiarism violation with no questions asked. So be thorough in citing your sources.

What about old school assignments?

It is fine to publish papers you turned in for grades back in school. However, in this case you do want to make sure your work passes plagiarism checkers. For one, depending on how long ago you wrote the paper, you may not remember much of the research and writing process. Also, high school and college teachers have not always done a good job of adequately teaching their students the differences between original work which cites other work and plagiarism. I personally remember honestly believing that as long as I put it in my own words, that was all that mattered. I did not understand until later that actually, rewording someone else's idea and presenting it as my own still is plagiarism. As a result, many school papers actually are plagiarized even if the student did not realize it or even if the student got a good grade. Finally, it's only been recently with Internet technology that we have good ways of checking for plagiarism, so past plagiarism was often missed. While you may have gotten away with unintentional plagiarism when you were in high school, you won't get away with it on the Devtome.

My advice is that you should check any old school assignments, especially research reports, for plagiarism before you publish them on the Devtome. If your work fails a plagiarism check, then don't merely reword it. Either scrap it or rewrite it from scratch. As with more recent work, if you yourself have any doubts in your mind as to the originality of your work, then don't publish it on the Devtome. Focus your energy instead on writing and publishing fresh original content.

The dire consequences of plagiarism

I have alluded to the consequences of plagiarism on the part of Devtome writers throughout this article, but I will state it clearly and emphatically here. Don't do it. Don't even come close. If you get caught, and you will get caught, your career as a Devtome writer will be unceremoniously cut short. Your account will be deleted. There is no formal appeal process. Plagiarism doesn't pay. Plagiarism is unethical, illegal and definitely not wanted on the Devtome.

The bottom line

In order for your writing to not be plagiarized, it has to be unique. This means that you need to say something that no one else has said before. This originality flows out of who you are. It can come from an experience you had. It can also come from a unique perspective you have on a matter of particular interest to you. In other words, it has to be more than a mere compilation of other people's ideas. When you do mention or build on others' ideas, be sure to cite them appropriately.

Before you publish to the Devtome, make sure you can clearly identify your own unique perspective, voice and genius. If you can't find it, don't publish. It's really that simple.

Writing | Devtome


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