Writing Essentials: What is Plagiarism? Paraphrasing? Homage?

I loved this article!! After having taught English for 40 years, I know how hard it is to teach students the differences between plagiarism and paraphrasing. If you time, read the entire article from the Editor’s Blog. http://theeditorsblog.net/2012/11/01/sampling-borrowing-homage-and-plagiarism-writing-essentials/

Sampling, Borrowing, Homage, and Plagiarism (Writing Essentials)

on November 1st, 2012 by Fiction Editor Beth Hill and last modified on November 1, 2012

This article is part of Writing Essentials,
in-depth coverage of the elements of fiction and writing basics.


I once assumed that everyone who made it through junior high (middle school) understood what plagiarism was and also understood that you don’t do it. Ever. Not at all. Not one sentence.

But if reports out of our schools and newsrooms are any indication, then plagiarism is thriving.

I’m not going to make you wait until you get to the end of the article for the conclusion on this one. The conclusion is, you don’t take the work of others and pass it off as your own. You don’t borrow or sample. You don’t write in the style of another author—not even one that you love, love, love—by using her phrasings. No, it’s not an homage or a tribute. It’s theft. And that author, as well as everyone else, knows it’s theft. And if you borrow or sample or steal the words or ideas of another, you are a thief.

Was that clear enough?

If you’re a student, please take this as your notice—you can’t take even one line from someone else and present it as your own. If you’re writing fiction, the story must be your words. If you’re writing an essay, you canrefer to the work of another using either direct or indirect quotes, but you must include attributions in your essay. Whether your footnotes are in the body of the text or included at the end, you have to provide references for your source materials.

And if you do refer to the works of others, those references should only bolster your own words. That is, you are the author of a report or essay, so the major part of any writing project should be your words—your questions, musings, and conclusions. Quote only short sections of someone else’s work, not paragraph after paragraph.  (There are limits to how much can be quoted of a single work, even for non-profit educational purposes. For more information, check the Fair Use provision of copyright law.)

If you quote directly, without a paraphrase, you must use quotation marks. And include citations.

If you paraphrase, using indirect quotes, you don’t use quotation marks but you still include citations.

If a thought isn’t original to you and is not common knowledge, you must cite your source.

This one should be easy, but apparently it isn’t. So I’ll find another way to say it.

If you use someone else’s words, no matter where you got them, you must put them in quotation marks and report the source. (The format for reporting source information depends on what you’re writing. Reference info typically includes author name, title of book or article, publication name, publisher’s name, date of publication, and page number. Internet sources have their own requirements. Make sure you know what’s required and the format you should follow.)

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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3 Responses to Writing Essentials: What is Plagiarism? Paraphrasing? Homage?

  1. Here, here. Thanks for a great post.

  2. As a former teacher, I have SCREAMED “Plagiarism” all my working life. I once had a parent who was not so much upset that I had caught her child plagiarizing, but she wanted to know how I caught the child so he/she would not be caught again in the future.

  3. Pingback: Social Media – Students’ Latest Source of Plagiarized Content - Inspired to Write | Inspired to Write

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