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The Compulsive Reader: Just a Reminder: Paraphrasing is Plagiarism

Friday, April 16, 2010

Just a Reminder: Paraphrasing is Plagiarism

I want to speak to you all about an issue that I've had to confront recently. Earlier this week, I discovered that quite a few of my reviews had been plagiarized. I was appalled. As bloggers, we represent ourselves solely through our words. They are our connection to our readers, and the authors and publishers we work with. I put a lot of time and effort and a lot of myself in my reviews.

Seeing someone steal my words and pass them off as their own was horribly disheartening.

The most important part of the online YA community is the passion for the books and stories, and telling others about great reads. It's not about having the best reviews, or the most books. It's certainly not about plagiarism.

For those of you who are fuzzy on what plagiarism is: it's not just copying someone's work. It includes copying the structure and the message. You can use a thesaurus all you want, you can paraphrase everything someone else says, but that is still plagiarism, and it is still just as serious. Being subconsciously influenced by another person's review is not a good excuse for your actions--it's a downright lazy one. We all possess a mind, and are capable of coming up with our own words.

If you are having a hard time articulating your feelings for a certain book, there are a few options for you that DO NOT involve imitating another person's review that you admire. First of all, stay away from others' reviews until your own is written. Try doing what I do--grab an index card and use it as a bookmark. Then, while reading, if you come across something you like or dislike, or have a thought that you would like to include in your review, write it down. By the time you are done reading that book, you should have at least two index cards full of your own, original thoughts, and writing the review will be a cinch.

But do not plagiarize.

There may be a lot of us, but the YA book blogging community is a small one, and you will be discovered sooner or later. And believe me, it is not something anyone takes lightly.

ETA: Steph Su and Adele from Persnickety Snark have each written very excellent posts about plagiarism as well. Also be sure to check out The Story Siren's post, Lenore's, and Liz's. Ladies, thank you for the support.

27 comments:

Jo said...

I don't know what to say --- I can't imagine stealing another blogger's reviews for something of my own. I have been known to copy down a particular great descriptive word, but that's it. How tacky.

I like your idea of keeping an index card in the book and jotting down notes. Much less invasive than my myriad of small sticky notes. :)

Terry Doherty said...

I am so sorry this happened to you. Yuck! When we get books with a full media kit, I throw it all away without even looking ... I don't ever want ANYTHING to influence our review.

I hope you were able to enlighten the word stealers! This post is quite eloquent ...

Another Daydreamer said...

Wow. I'm just shocked...

Anonymous said...

Wow that is just awful. I want you to know that I always read your blog. You are awesome. thanks for blogging so much! I have read so many great books because of your reviews!

Ann-Kat (Today, I Read...) said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you. It happened to me a while ago, but Amazon was very helpful in taking the offending review down once I notified them.

If the person who's plagiarizing your reviews is doing so through Amazon, I recommend contacting them and making them aware of the problem. Or, if it's a personal website, you can send them a Cease & Desist (and send one to their web host for good measure).

Also, love the tip about using an index card as you read--I do the same thing. :D

AnimeGirl said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you. I've been plagiarized in the past - not reviews but a story I wrote - and there is no words to describe the anger, pain and shock you feel when I found out.

*hugs*

I do love you idea of keeping a index card as a bookmark :) I think it' might even make a good memento of the first time you found an awesome book (if the story turns out to be awesome ;) )

Pam said...

Oh the index card thing is ace! I am always forgetting and saying I should take notes but didn't want to carry around a notebook.

Dahlia (TheBookShopaholic) said...

The writing thoughts on a notecard idea is genius. I've always wanted to try something like that. But, I've always forgotten and made mental notes. I'm going to try this, now.

Great Post! Love the notecard idea.

Erica said...

That is absolutely awful. =(

But that index card is a really great idea! I had never even though of it. I usually just start the post as a draft and write the little thoughts I had, but that is so much smarter! :)

Sarahbear9789 said...

I am so sorry that this happened to you. Your blog is so amazing. I love the index card idea. I tend to tab places that I want to use for my review, which is annoying when they fall out.

Rebecca :) said...

I just found your blog through Kristi of The Story Siren's post. I am sorry to read that your work has been stolen. Do you know if it was the same person that stole from you, Steph, and Adele? Or was it 3 separate people? I can understand, of course, having the same basic thoughts on a book, but just stealing your review style and your words is just rude and unnecessary. I would rather have a review that is less than stellar than to steal from someone else. I wouldn't want anyone to do that to me. Like I told Adele, I hope you were able to talk with the offender and get some resolution.

Ms. Yingling said...

That's just weird. What is the point of blogging if you are just parroting someone else's opinion. It never occurred to me that someone would do this!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Oh wow! I'm so sorry! Any tips on how to handle it?

The Compulsive Reader said...

Be excessively polite, yet firm. Do your research before confronting anyone. Form a support group, people that will help you draft emails and make sure you don't say anything you might regret. Bcc people you trust on the emails you send to protect yourself. Most importantly, don't do anything rash when angry.

Ros said...

Echoing someone else's words distorts the view of the book. I mean, what if the copied review is written by the one person with a really unusual take on the book? So this kind of plagiarism is contemptuous of the blog readers as well as the original reviewer.

Sarah said...

I'm glad you're speaking out about plagiarism though I am sorry this happened to you. Your reviews are always so wonderful and it's really disheartening that someone would steal that.

(I am however totally going to use your index card idea! I always find quotes and sentences I like but then forget to mark where I read them.)

Keri Mikulski said...

Hugs... Such a yucky feeling.

Chantele said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you! It's sad people have to steal from others to try to move themselves up in the blogging world. Hopefully people will realize it is wrong to steal someone else's "voice". I still love your blog, and am so glad you spoke up on this issue. Hugs!:)

Cheryl said...

I am going to try the index card idea. I use those little sticky tabs to mark spots in the book that I want to remember, but I hate having millions of them in the book to go back to. I am going to try it with the book I am reading right now. I found your posting on "The Story Siren" and went to your blog. I am now a new follower.

Liviania said...

Thanks for speaking up!

I often use post-its, just like I would for an academic book. I can leave a note to myself and quickly reread the passage if I'm confused by just what my note meant. (It happens.)

A Journey of Books said...

Awww :( Sorry that happened to you. This whole thing is just so irritating.

Kat Hooper said...

I've left this comment at the other blogs, too:

At FanLit, we've been affected by plagiarism, too. After speaking to Adele by email, I find that it's not the same person. There must be several culprits out there, which is very upsetting.

I wish I had time to start some sort of group where bloggers/readers could report and discredit bloggers who plagiarize. If someone would be willing to do that, please let us know.

Shannon said...

Oh that's horrible. There's no excuse.

I'm curious though: the blogging world is so huge, how do you even find out that someone's done this?

April (BooksandWine) said...

I like to use a notebook and write down my thoughts after I finish the book, and review from there.

I do however, think there is a difference between influence and plagiarizing. Like, say I read a lot of books, my writing style is obviously going to be influenced by those books -- since the more you read, the better you'll most likely write.

Boo to plagiarism though!

Serena said...

This is great advice. Lets hope everyone follows it.

Cleverly Inked said...

New follower here. Holy moley that stinks. I am in shock

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