You Don’t Have a Good Reason to Plagiarize

Plagiarism stars

As a graduate student with teaching responsibilities as part of my financial aid package, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to prevent plagiarism in the classroom. Schools and universities have taken increased measures to address increasing levels of plagiarism in the past several years, and I think some of what they have learned can be useful to the book blogging community as we continue to address the plagiarism in our own midst.


Over half of students admit to academic dishonesty. The percentage can range from 50% to 75% depending on the source or study you read, but the point is that the number is high. While I doubt the amount of plagiarist book bloggers is anywhere near this large, I do think it’s worth noting that plagiarism is a real problem.

So what should we do? Start by addressing the reasons that people plagiarize. The reasons I list below are common ones students give when confronted with their plagiarism by an academic council, but they strongly mirror the reasons plagiarist bloggers give. None of them, however, are good excuses–and I’ll explain why.

(Source 1) (Source 2) (Source 3)

Excuses for Plagiarism


I’m listing this one first just to get it out of the way. I believe there is a small segment of the population who actally is a bit hazy on what exactly constitutes plagiarism. For instance, adult learners might be more at risk for accidental plagiarism due changing standards and research methods since they were last in school, and international students used to different conventions of citation may also struggle.

Therefore, I’m all about clearly defining plagiarism for people who may be unaware, so here it is: “the act of using another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to that person” (Merriam-Webster). This includes direct copying and pasting, paraphrasing that clearly still mirrors the original author’s words, and paraphrasing that changes the original author’s wording significantly but still steals the original author’s ideas.

However, my personal opinion is that most people who use the ignorance explanation are using it to avoid the consequences of their actions after being caught plagiarizing. Most people do know what it is and that it’s wrong. And the fact that most bloggers caught plagiarizing don’t mention ignorance as a reason supports this.

Lack of Time

This is a big one for book bloggers. The pressure to have a consistent blogging schedule, to post frequently to please readers, to meet deadlines for review copies or book tours can be real. As a community, book bloggers can do little to combat this for others. We can’t pick up another blogger’s house chores or work responsibilities to help them make more time for reading and writing. However, whenever possible we should make stressed-out bloggers this assurance: If you ever feel a need to plagiarize to keep up with your blog, it’s time to take a break. You are not going to lose readers, publicity contacts, or friends because you take a hiatus or post once a week instead of seven times a week. We will all still read and love and support your blog. And if you really feel the need to always have new posts, here’s a better solution than stealing: look for a co-blogger who can help shoulder some of the workload.

Pressure to Succeed

People often plagiarize when they think their own writing isn’t “good enough.” Maybe it isn’t “long enough,” “insightful enough,” or “smart enough.” In the blogosphere, these thoughts are just garbage–in a good way. Unlike academic writing, book blogging comes with few conventions. Personal voice and style are valued. A review can be short, long, chatty, analytical, or full of gifs, and it can be a good review. Your reviews never have to sound like someone else’s in order to find an audience. You never have to review a certain way in order to get followers or publicity contacts or traffic or anything else you think makes a blogger “successful.”

Lack of Stigma around Plagiarism

People who plagiarize often do so in environments where they have seen other people doing the same. This can be seeing other students cheating in classes or seeing journalists get away with plagiarism online. The idea is that other people are plagiarizing and succeeding because of it: getting high grades, awards, or public praise. Plagiarism begins to look desirable and normal.

But there is a huge stigma against plagiarizing in the book blogging community. See here, here, or here if you’re not convinced.

Belief that Plagiarism is a Victim-less Crime

It isn’t. Small school children being taught the evils of cheating often use this logic to defend cheating: It doesn’t hurt the other person and you’re not technically taking something away from them. They still have their original work; you just happen to have a copy of it. Small school children are mistaken.

Plagiarizing does hurt the people whose words are stolen, and it hurts the people who had supported the plagiarist and promoted their work. In the blogosphere, it can also hurt the book community at large, as publicists and authors become wary of working with bloggers and providing them with ARCs.

Belief that Plagiarism Won’t be Caught

It will. Plagiarist bloggers have been caught multiple times in the past. Sometimes the matter is resolved quietly with private emails between the original author and the plagiarist.  Often is not. Plagiarists then face public shaming, angry tweets and emails from the victims, and reports made to review sites and publicity contacts. Often the plagiarists end up deleting their blogs, Goodreads, and social media accounts–or having them deleted by the host sites. Worse, plagiarists who blog under their real names are left with clear online records of their unethical actions, which could affect things like their future job prospects.

So if you think plagiarizing seems worthwhile, think again: Is it worth losing a career opportunity because you just had to post that review of the newest YA book on Monday instead of Friday? Are the benefits really greater than the costs?


8 thoughts on “You Don’t Have a Good Reason to Plagiarize

  1. Lisa says:

    Good, thoughtful post! I really don’t understand the “pressure to succeed” excuse for bloggers. Chances are, the pressure is all in the person’s mind. We choose how we want to blog, but it sounds like some people need to learn to make better choices.


    • Briana says:

      Thanks! I’m not sure about the worries to be a successful blogger either. There are so many paths to finding an audience, but the biggest factor is that it often just takes time to build a readership. All the plagiarism in the world isn’t going to get you 1000 followers in a month.


  2. jubilare says:

    When I was fairly wee, I cheated in math. Math has always been challenging for me, and even though wee-Jubilare knew that cheating was wrong, I chose to do it anyway. I wanted the praise and approval for doing something well, without all the hard work and pain of doing it right. The upshot was that I had good grades for a little while, but when I hit a test, with no ability to cheat, I didn’t know how to actually do the problems, and I nose-dived. It was a good lesson. I wish everyone who ever cheated learned it as early as I did.
    Another child-hood lesson came when I stole a thumb-tack that I liked. I still remember what it looked like, it was a turquoise plastic Snoopy. My mother found me with it, and instead of shrugging it off with “it’s just a thumb-tack,” she made me take it back, explain what I had done, and apologize. It was absolutely mortifying. And I am glad my mother had the good sense to put me through it.

    All this to say, even as a small child, I knew these things were wrong, and I did them because I thought I could get away with it. Luckily, I didn’t.
    Getting away with something you know is wrong seems to have an addictive quality to it. The more you get away with it, the easier it becomes to do it the next time, and the harder it is for you to acknowledge that it is wrong. And that creates horrible situations like this, where everybody involved gets hurt.


    • Briana says:

      I’d be unsurprised if nearly everyone has cheated once in their life, even if it was something “minor” like a single test question in first grade. I agree that it’s really something that’s best to get over with when you’re young, though. Being given a zero on a test you cheated on in elementary school won’t have any long-lasting impacts or your academic record or reputation, but it should teach you a lesson. Being caught cheating in college or at your job is going to have far more reaching consequences, and it’s really a shame some people make it so far in life and still think cheating is okay.

      I agree that people do it because they think they can get away with it–because they often do get away with it the first several times. There hasn’t been a single blogger scandal where the plagiarist stole a single post–it’s always a bunch of them. The same is true with academic cheating. It isn’t unusual for the people who get caught to explain they’ve done it before and kept doing it because they were getting away with it. Now, maybe people who plagiarize once are just less likely to be caught than people who do it many times, but I’m inclined to agree it becomes additive–good results with little effort and no consequences must seem attractive. And if your excuse is that you have no time or your own writing is sub-par, those are really ongoing problems you’re going to feel you have to continue “fixing” time and again.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jubilare says:

    To clarify, just in case, none of that is meant to be an excuse for plagiarism! Rather, a warning to those who consider doing it/are doing it.
    I’m anti-bullying. However, shame is something that should be felt when one is caught stealing and cheating (and, hopefully, even when one isn’t caught, but that’s probably too much to hope for). Shame is useful, it teaches. And if someone does not feel shame, even when caught, then something has gone terribly wrong with their conscience.


    • Briana says:

      Yes, I have conflicting feelings on mass-community shaming of plagiarists, either in expose posts that give the person’s name and evidence of their crimes or through mass-tweeting the plagiarist snarky and angry comments. I know the plagiarist brought it on him or herself and completely deserves it, but sometimes it can smack of bullying. But so many of these people seem to exhibit little remorse. They don’t comply with private requests to take down the stolen content and they don’t stop plagiarizing. Public naming and shaming has, in many cases, been the most effective way to get people to stop. The blogging community also has the issue that public shaming is really the only way we can self-police this behavior and show people there are consequences. This isn’t a university. We can’t convene an official council to analyze their crimes and mandate they take a course on proper citation. We can only make it clear we have zero-tolerance for plagiarism and anyone who does it will be exposed and no longer have an audience.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jubilare says:

        “But so many of these people seem to exhibit little remorse.” Aye, there’s the rub.You, and the rest of the bloggers that have responded to this case have done so with great maturity and restraint considering what has happened.


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