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What Defines Copying for a Blogger?

I recently wrote a post about writing what you don’t know. Everyone seemed to agree that writing what you don’t know takes longer and doesn’t turn out nearly as well as writing about something you really understand. Nevertheless, most of the bloggers agreed that there are situations where you have to write about what you don’t know. If you’re a full-time blogger like me for a company that asks you to write guest posts all day every day, there comes a time when you’re going to have to write about something you may have to really research. In other words, you have to try and find articles written by the experts and then put your own spin on the same information. This led me to wonder: Is this considered copying?

I think that there is a fine line between copying and researching to create a great article. For this reason, many bloggers do copy articles without even realizing they are copying. It’s important that a blogger really understands how to write about something where research is involved.

Different Ways a Blogger could be Found Copying

Some bloggers think that copying an article means copying and pasting an exact article from one blog to another. While this is of course the most obvious form of copying, there are other ways you can copy:

  • Using the same structure with the same ideas as another article. In other words, all this person would be doing is changing the words to synonyms and different sentence structures.
  • Having similar ideas in an article and taking bits and pieces of the article verbatim. For example, copying a joke or a switching off between your paragraphs and paragraphs in the original article.
  • Simply adding details to an already existing article. This usually makes the article look different because it is 1000 words instead of 500, but this still counts as plagiarism.
  • Mentioning the name of the source you found the information, but not linking back or being specific enough for someone to understand.
  • Lying about where you found the article. You might say “this article was republished,” but you have to be telling the truth about where it was republished (and this should be easy to find because you should include a link).

The first bullet point is overwhelmingly the most common (and as a former high school English teacher, I can tell you the same goes for high school term papers). Unfortunately, many bloggers do this without realizing that they are copying. I know that when gathering information, it is extremely tempting to try and use the same ideas as another article, but this simply doesn’t make for a good article in the end. If you get caught copying, you could find yourself in big trouble.

So how do you write about something that warrants a little bit of research?

How to Avoid Copying While Still Using Your Research

There is absolutely nothing wrong with looking to an article written by an expert for a little bit of help. After all, you want to make sure that you are 100% sure you’re giving out good information. However, there are a few things that you must keep in mind. Consider some of the rules that you can follow to make sure you’re sticking with proper blogging etiquette:

1. Use only the facts that you find. Come up with your own analysis and ideas.

It is important that a blogger comes up with his/her own opinions when writing. It is 100% okay to use the facts that someone else lays out in an article, but it’s important that you come up with your own conclusions. In other words, it is okay to write about the same topic, but put your own spin on it. Make it unique.

2. Give credit and be truthful when using information found somewhere else.

You always want to make sure you give credit to any article you used to write your article. Whether it be facts and statistics or ideas that are less concrete, citation is appropriate. It is also absolutely crucial that you cite your sources correctly. Make sure your link works before closing out of the article you were using and can’t find it again.

3. If you’re going to re-publish an article in its entirety, ask permission.

Many websites will actually let you have their exact article if you just ask. Websites will want to make sure that you link back to their website, the original source, as a way to give credit. In other words, do not work really hard trying to come up with your own conclusions about a great topic. If you completely agree with someone and couldn’t have said it better yourself, see if they’ll let you do a re-publish.

4. Do not consistently write about the same topics as one blog or one author.

Although you may not be copying an article, you do not want to follow exactly what one website or one author does. This can still be considered copying and would make another website owner very angry. You want to make sure that you are coming up with new topics on your own and then researching accordingly.

5. If you can’t form your own ideas and analysis, write only what you really know.

Some bloggers have a very hard time researching the facts and them coming up with their own spin on a topic. If you fall into this category, it is best to stick with subjects you know a lot about. For example, I know quite a bit about SEO and blogging, but not much about employee background checks. Even though my company has many background check resources, I try and stick to what I know.

Have you ever seen someone copy content and claim it as his/her own? Have you ever felt like maybe you were copying an article you saw online?

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Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to 401k limits. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including document software to small businesses and entrepreneurs for the leading business directory,