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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Content writing and plagiarism...The unattributed paraphrase...

I read this on a bid at GetAFreelancer.com. A prospective freelancer was bidding on a rewrite project and noted:

Reasons why I should work on this project: - The project seems easy and interesting for me. - I am a casual writer having no reputation yet (this might be the big break!) - I am a good copy-cat (meaning I can copy/rewrite articles effectively without getting caught :-)) - I am simple enough for your needs but good enough to match your expectations. - I am still looking for the right team to work with...grab me before someone else gets this undiscovered genius!"

From all appearances, this person is advertising their ability to effectively plagiarize. One could argue she was merely indicating an ability to perform good re-writes for those who hold rights to a written piece, but the inclusion of "without getting caught" makes that seem fairly unlikely.

We often tend to think of plagiarism in only the most obvious of forms--when someone steals content from someone else and uses it "as is." That type of content misappropriation is certainly the most obvious, but it probably is not nearly as common as the "rewrite" plagiarism that goes on constantly and is not picked up by Copyscape, etc.

Officially, if one uses the ideas of another and simply restates them that paraphrasing should be attributed to the original source. The failure to properly attribute source material and to allow readers to believe the thoguhts presented are your own is plagiarism.

By all traditional academic standards the failure to properly attribute source material and paraphrasing the thoughts of others while presenting them as your own is considered plagiarism. Do those academic standards apply to content writing for the web? If a strict enforcement of these standards is not warranted, at what point does one draw the line?