How to Avoid Accidental Plagiarism While Blogging

Plagiarism tends to be a thing that we think other people do.  People who are desperate or of morally questionable character.  What else could convince them that presenting someone else’s work as their own is a good idea?  However, plagiarism is more than copying and pasting an article or website and saying that you wrote it.  Plagiarism can take on other forms as well.  And sometimes novice writers plagiarize by mistake.

There have been incidents of blatant and purposeful plagiarism on the book blogosphere.  In these cases, the bloggers either copied other reviews wholesale or, after being caught and confronted, tried to hide their actions by mixing up elements of several other bloggers’ reviews.  Both actions are wrong; even copying a few sentences or phrases from another person without citation is plagiarism.  However, rephrasing sentences from other bloggers posts and using them in your own posts is plagiarism, as well.

Rephrasing is what often gets novice writers into trouble.  Even if they are aware that paraphrasing another person’s work still requires attribution and citation, some writers are still practicing rephrasing work so that it does not resemble the original work too closely.  They may not mean to plagiarize, but they are.  And, sadly, intent does not always save a person’s reputation or prevent them from getting into trouble.  Thus, it is of paramount importance that writers learn as quickly as possible how to avoid accidentally copying someone else’s work.

Strategies to Avoid Accidental Plagiarism

Writing Reviews

When writing a book review, try not to read other reviews beforehand.  Of course, you may have found the book through another review or seen it somewhere like Goodreads.  That’s okay.  However, when you start drafting your own review, do not return to Goodreads or other blogs to see what other people are saying.  Write your own review first.  This way, the ideas or phrasings of others will be less likely to creep into your own work.

Writing Discussion Posts

Discussion posts often arise from thoughts you may have had about a post, book, or article you read. In this case, it’s appropriate to link back to the website or mention the book.  Explain that you are writing a discussion post that is in response to someone else and that you are having a conversation with the other writer.  Once you start writing, be careful with your research.  If you use other sources  to provide evidence for your case, cite them and link back when possible.  Do not, however, search for other bloggers’ thoughts on the topic and then quietly incorporate their ideas into your own work because you think their ideas are better.  If you are using their work at all, in any way, you have to link back.

Writing Lists of Blogging Tips

Writing lists can be tricky. Bloggers often cover the same topics such as “How to Start a Book Blog” or “Resources for Graphic Making.”  You may wonder how you are supposed to compile a list that is entirely original.  After all, don’t people use the same general blogging strategies and resources?  It’s okay if you find that some of your points overlap.  However, if you are writing a list of ten tips, look at another list, and use a bunch of the same tips from the same writer without attribution, you may be accidentally plagiarizing.  You may dig yourself even deeper if you use the same order as their list, the same format as their list, or the same wording as their list.  If you find yourself doing this, the reality may be that you aren’t adding anything new to the conversation.  You’re merely compiling and rearranging other sources without attribution.  In which case, you are probably accidentally plagiarizing.  To avoid this, make your own list first, write out the descriptions without looking at anyone else’s, and do more research once you are finished drafting. If you then use anyone else’s resources, cite them. When in doubt, always cite.

Figuring Out How to Rephrase

By now you know that, if you are having trouble separating your ideas from the ideas of others, you should try to avoid looking at other people’s writings while drafting your response.  But how do you actually rephrase something so it is not too close to the original writing?  The easiest way to do this is to understand fully what you just read.  Paraphrasing that becomes plagiarism typically occurs when writers do not have a firm grasp on their research material or what it means, so they stick closely to the original phrasing.  So read the material several times.  Make sure you know what it’s saying.  You will know you have understood it when, as one of my instructors once advised, you can summarize the whole thing in one sentence.  Even if it’s a 20-page paper, you should be able to get at the heart of the paper and explain its main argument in one sentence.  Once you understand it, you can explain it without copying the original writer’s phrasing.

Conclusion

Accidental plagiarism happens on the blogosphere.  In many cases, we should see this as a learning opportunity for the plagiarizer, who may have written their posts without fully understanding that they followed their sources too closely.  However, ultimately, we are each responsible for our own actions and we cannot always count on others to believe that our motives were innocent.  The best way to protect ourselves from accidental plagiarism is to educate ourselves.

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How Plagiarism Can Affect Your Readers

 

How Plagiarism Can Affect Your Readers

To clarify from the start, this post is not in response to any particular recent events. However, I have written in the past about how plagiarism can affect those who have been plagiarized, how it can affect our community at large, and why it shouldn’t appeal to the plagiarist.  I realized I was missing a discussion of how plagiarism can affect those who read the plagiarized content.

Plagiarism in Academia

In the real world, I occasionally teach literature and writing classes to undergrads, and I have discovered my fair share of plagiarized essays. (I try not to think about the ones I might not have caught.)  And although I realize the plagiarism is not really about me–it’s about the student cheating him or herself of a proper education, or it’s about the student cheating other students in the classroom–it often does feel very personal.

It takes me an average of 40 minutes to grade a typical essay I assign. Teaching experts talk about life/work balance and trying to spend 20 minutes maximum per essay, but anyone who has graded know that 20 minutes is often an elusive dream.  Well-written essays are often faster to grade, but ones that are a little confusing or need a few more revisions before final submission take longer.  The only way for me to cut down on grading time is to cut down on providing useful feedback–and that’s one thing I’m not willing to do.  It’s quick and easy to scribble a note that says “Page 2 is a bit confusing. You should clarify your ideas before the final draft.” It takes much longer to read and reread page 2, try to figure out where the author is trying to go, and offer concrete solutions for him or her to get there.

So when I realize I have spent 40 minutes commenting on an essay or a draft that has been plagiarized, it angers me.  I have wasted 40 minutes of my life reading an essay my student did not write, may not have even read him or herself, and will not be able to apply my feedback to.  And I will have to spend even more time documenting the plagiarism, finding the original sources so I can report it to the proper school boards, and double-checking all the student’s past submitted essays for plagiarism I may have missed.  Each of these cases takes hours.  I know the student never meant the action personally; it has nothing to do with me.  But still.  They showed the y have no respect for my class.  No respect for my time.  They lied to me, and they clearly think I’m foolish enough to fall for it.

It’s even more upsetting fielding students’ various reactions.  I hear stories of students who have been repentant, and I have a lot of respect for that. Unfortunately, this has not yet been my experience. Some students go down with the ship, declaring nothing was done wrong. Some students lash out.  Some try to carry on in the class as if nothing happened at all.  Some go to the honor board and try to convince the committee that somehow the whole thing was my fault because I never told them what plagiarism was (I always do).  None of these reactions make it any easier for me to deal with the case.

So, yes, dealing with plagiarism is a hassle. It can be emotionally draining, if the plagiarist becomes confrontational.  Yet most of all, it feels like a betrayal.  To read someone’s work in good faith, to have respect for them as a student and as a writer, to truly want to see them grow and then realize you were being given lies can be devastating.  It’s not personal, but it certainly feels as if it is.

Plagiarism in the Blogosphere

Although plagiarism in the blogosphere has some differences from plagiarism in academia, I think my story above illustrates the emotional roller coaster that a reader can experience after discovering they have been reading plagiarized work.  Even when the plagiarism has nothing to do with the reader personally–they weren’t stolen from, they weren’t asked to do anything particular with the work, etc.–discovering the plagiarism can feel like a betrayal.  I think this, perhaps even more than the lack of a sincere apology, can be what makes it difficult for bloggers who have plagiarized to rebuild their audiences.

Publishing plagiarized work is simply a waste of readers’ time.  They thought they were reading original work from Blogger A, when really they were reading Blogger B’s  work, or something that was cobbled together haphazardly from multiple sources.  But they if wanted to be reading Blogger B’s writing, they wouldn’t be reading Blogger A’s blog.  If they wanted to read excerpts from multiple blogs, they would be reading those blogs instead.  Readers are being promised one “product” and being given something else.  When they discover the plagiarism, many will be upset that Blogger A had no respect for their time.

They may also be upset that Blogger A lied to them, and believed the his or her followers were silly enough they would never notice the plagiarism.  There’s nothing worse than imagining a plagiarist sitting at home and laughing at how gullible everyone is because they believe the blogger is publishing original content. (I’m sure plagiarists don’t actually laugh about this. In fact, many of them may be seriously stressed out by the threat of discovery, but the readers don’t know this. They will assume the plagiarist was happy to lie to them.).  No one enjoys being lied to, and no one likes to think they were successfully deceived for a time.  Rebuilding an audience after treating them like fools can be difficult.

Conclusion

Presenting your readers with plagiarized work is a breach of trust.  When people are following your writing career (whether it’s academic work, professional writing, or a blog you run as a hobby), they feel an investment in you and in your writing.  Discovering that their interest and good faith was taken advantage of can be devastating for readers; it can make them feel that you have no respect for them and their time.  I know many people plagiarize out of a desire to present good work to the world, to give their readers something they think is more worthwhile or more interesting or more well-written than what they would produce on their own.  However, the truth is that readers want to read original work.  No one would be reading your writing if they weren’t interested in what you personally had to say.

Have you ever discovered you were reading plagiarized work? How did you feel?

Briana

What Constitutes Plagiarism?

Plagiarism stars

Generally speaking, people know they should not plagiarize.  Plagiarism is simple, right? It’s when a person claims credit for work that is not theirs.  However, I have seen many excuses for plagiarism once an individual is caught.  Suddenly, it seems, the rules of engagement were unclear.  The person didn’t mean to do it!

Unfortunately, however, most people find it difficult to judge intent, so if you are caught plagiarizing, you will probably have to face the consequences–ignorance is not innocence.  To avoid that scenario, here are some simple rules to follow to ensure that you are doing your best to give others credit for their work.

  1. You cannot just quote someone by saying “As Aristotle once said….”  and leaving it there with no book or page number.  You need to provide the source where you found this quote.  This enables your readers to judge its credibility.  (And, once you do some research, you might actually discover Aristotle never said that at all.  How awkward if someone else had discovered this first.)
  2. There is such a thing as self-plagiarism.  You may have written the paper yourself, but you cannot turn it in for more than one class.  If you must use your previous work, it is possible to cite yourself.  Academic authors often do, especially if they are one of the few people working in a particular field.
  3. If you think of an idea and then read it later in a book, you need to cite the book.  You may have been really pleased with your own cleverness, but the people reading your work have no way to verify that your thought came first.  Better safe than sorry.
  4. It is possible to try to rephrase something, but do it in such a way that your sentences still resemble the original text too closely.  If you do this, you will probably be accused of something like academic misconduct rather than plagiarism, but you still want to avoid this scenario.  If you are unsure how to rephrase something sufficiently, it is probably better to quote the original text directly.
  5. If your classmate says something in seminar that you think is brilliant, you have to credit your classmate when you put their thought in your paper.  Likewise, if someone gives you an idea in a conversation or through email, you should credit that person.  (Keep in mind that some professors may not want you discussing your work with other people.  I once took a class where it was against the honor code even to ask someone to proofread your paper.  Always abide by the course policy.)
  6. Plagiarism is more than copying and pasting paragraphs or large chunks of text into your paper.  Taking a sentence from a source here and a source there and sprinkling them throughout your paper without citation is still unethical, as is interspersing your sentences with phrases drawn from others’ work.

Remember, when in doubt, cite your sources!  Citing your sources  demonstrates that you have done your research and are equipped to speak on a subject, allows your readers to assess the credibility of your evidence, and gives credit to all the great people who helped you produce your work.  If you don’t know how to cite something properly or are unsure if you have paraphrased too closely, always ask your instructor before the work is due.  They want to help you!

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Blogging Tips: What to Do If You’ve Been Plagiarized

Blogging Tips

As plagiarism becomes an increasing issue in the book blogging community (or at least a more widely publicized one), it’s good to know what options you have if it ever happens to you.

1. Find the Plagiarism

Oftentimes writers stumble across plagiarism accidentally. They’re reading a post and it sounds familiar, or a friend tips them off to an article that sounds like something they’ve written. If this happens to you, your next step should be finding out whether the one stolen post is the extent of the plagiarism. It often isn’t, so be prepared to find more content stolen from your site or from other bloggers.

You can quickly check for plagiarism by running the blogger’s posts through an online plagiarism checker. I like the one at Small SEO Tools because it tends to pick up more plagiarism than other free checkers I’ve tried, but you can use whatever tool you like best. Alternatively, you can run your own posts through the checker and see if you get any hits that aren’t your own site.

2. Take Screenshots

Before you do anything else, take screenshots of the original post(s) and the plagiarized version(s). Make sure the dates each were posted are clearly visible in the screenshot so you can prove which version was posted first. This will be your proof your content was stolen.

You should do this before alerting anyone of your suspicions because news can leak.  You don’t want the plagiarist becoming aware of your suspicions and removing posts before you have documentation of the theft.

3. Alert Anyone Else Who Was Plagiarized

If you find a blog that plagiarized both you and other bloggers, alert the other victims.  Email is the most private means, but some bloggers don’t list email addresses as contact information, in which case you’ll have to decide whether you want to go more public by tweeting them or posting a comment on their blog.

Contacting other plagiarized writers is a good move at this point particularly if you’re feeling alone and not sure what steps you want to take next.

4. Decide What to Do about the Plagiarist

Your basic options:

  • Do nothing.
  • Privately email the blogger and request your content be removed.
  • Publicly out the plagiarist on social media or through an expose post on your own blog.
  • Notify Goodreads, their blog host, and any other sites their content is plagiarized.
  • Look into legal options. (Rare for bloggers due to time and expense.)

If you already contacted other bloggers, your options might be limited, so be prepared.  You may want to try contacting the plagiarist privately first, but someone else might already be publicizing their theft on Twitter.  If this is a concern for you, you should consider switching steps 3 and 4.

5. Be Prepared for Nothing to Happen

Sometimes plagiarists apologize, and sometimes they deny everything.  Sometimes they remove the offending post, and sometimes they “close” their blog just to start a new one and keep plagiarizing elsewhere.  Most web hosts will cooperate with you in removing plagiarized content, but Goodreads won’t keep banning the same person forever if they just keep creating new accounts.  So if the plagiarist refuses to be shamed out of the blogging community and you don’t have the money or inclination to start a legal case, the outcome of the confrontation with the plagiarist could be disappointing for you.  (It was when I was plagiarized.)  Just know that the blogging community has your back, and you don’t have to face everything alone.

Briana

The Problem of Plagiarizing without Consequences

Plagiarism stars

I’ve written two other posts on plagiarism in the blogosphere in the two weeks, “How It Feels to Be Plagiarized” and “You Don’t Have a Good Reason to Plagiarize.” So, yes, part of me deeply desires to move on, to stop banging my head against a wall, to stop harping on a subject that we should all know is wrong. Yet as the latest plagiarism scandal continues, I find it important to highlight exactly what it’s so problematic that Samantha Reed (Reed’s Reads and Review, formerly Reeds Reviews) has plagiarized the book reviews of a staggering number of other book bloggers and has essentially gotten away with it.

One of the biggest tools in preventing plagiarism is actually a form of fear tactics. If you visit the Purdue OWL web site, you’ll find a plagiarism exercise called “Truth or Consequences,” in which teachers ask students to read a selection of news articles outlining the horrible things that happen to plagiarists who get caught. Students read articles titled things like “Hamilton President Resigns Over Speech” and “Washington Post Blogger Quits after Plagiarism Accusations” and “Hungary’s President Quits Over Alleged Plagiarism.” The message is clear: Plagiarism can ruin your life.

But the Samantha Reed case has shown that plagiarism might do nothing to you at all–and this is a dangerous precedent to set. Of course, there has been some minor fallout from the whole affair. Reed closed one blog, one Twitter account, and one Goodreads account after confronted by Cuddlebuggery with her rampant plagiarism. Yet, literally days later, Reed created new accounts for all three of these web sites, where she continues to plagiarize. Multiple reports to Goodreads and multiple DMCA notices sent to WordPress.com later, Reed’s accounts are still active online. For a week, she has been able to steal intellectual property without consequence.

Yes, there has also been the public shaming, first in the form of the Cuddlebuggery post and later in a form of mass outrage directed at Reed by multiple bloggers on Twitter. But the directed anger of the book blogosphere has not stopped the plagiarism. Reed is still online, still posting reviews. And she is still receiving books and swag from publishers, ARCs from Netgalley, and praise from authors for “her” reviews. At the end of the day, the number of people who have heard about Reed’s plagiarism is a small drop in the bucket of the Internet; Reed knows she will always have followers–they just won’t be the bloggers she plagiarized. To make matters worse, the plagiarism has boosted her “popularity” in the form of stats. When I first found Reed’s new blog on Sept. 4, she had about 400 views. On Sept. 10, she had over 2,300. While most of these hits are likely bloggers scouring her site for evidence she plagiarized their work and not actual fans, many people who visit her site may never know this. She can now also proudly claim to publishers that she averages over 300 page views a day, increasing the odds she’ll be sent ARCs.

Reed is revealing a huge problem for book bloggers; there is little recourse for those of us who have been plagiarized. If web hosts are slow to deal with the issue or decide not to deal with it at all, the plagiarism continues unchecked. If the web hosts do remove the plagiarized work, the plagiarist can just open new accounts and continue business as usual. If bloggers band together and try to shame a plagiarist out of the community, the plagiarist can simply refuse to be shamed. No one can make a plagiarist quit blogging. And no matter how hard bloggers try to spread the word that someone online is a plagiarist, there will always be people who don’t know and continue to follow them and work with them. A cease and desist letter and the involvement of an attorney may be a last resort for those who have been plagiarized, but the cost can be a deterrent.

Reed’s actions are dangerous. Her continued blogging shows that plagiarism (plagiarism that has been caught and proven and publicly outed) might actually have few consequences. Maybe down the road there will be hidden ones: a potential employer will Google her name and choose not to hire her–but she’ll never be told this is the reason she didn’t get the job. And no one else will know either that, two years from now, she finally paid for some way in her actions. From the outside, it looks as if she plagiarized and she won. That means she’s showing other people that they can plagiarize and get away with it, too.

Note: Again, I don’t want to accuse someone of plagiarism without evidence.  The Cuddlebuggery post outlines the plagiarism from the first blog.  Below I provide screenshots of excerpts of just a few posts that are plagiarized on the second blog.  (Some of these posts may have been removed by Reed after complaints.)

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Briana

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.

Background

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

Ignorance

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?

Briana

How It Feels to Be Plagiarized

Plagiarism stars

If you haven’t heard about the latest blogging plagiarism scandal, suffice to say that one reviewer plagiarized from over fifteen bloggers, posting the reviews to her personal book blog and Goodreads account. The reviews on her blog have been deleted but many remain on Goodreads, some “reworked” since she was confronted but still clearly plagiarized. If you want more information, it’s readily available, but my main point is not to continue shaming the plagiarizer–as tempting as that is. Instead I want to talk about how it feels to be the one whose work has been plagiarized, something I thought would never happen to me.

If we don’t all know that plagiarizing is wrong, we should. And frankly, many plagiarizers in the blogosphere exhibit behavior that indicates they do know it’s wrong; they attempt to hide their tracks by “mixing” reviews from multiple sources, delete the evidence when confronted, issue apologies saying they knew and did it anyway. Despite the many reasons plagiarizers give, I still really have no idea what drives them to copy other bloggers’ work. The payoff is little. Any pressure to post certain types of reviews or a specific number of reviews per week is all in their minds. Any prestige they gain as a blogger is lost instantly when their plagiarism is discovered. So if knowing plagiarism is wrong and knowing doing it has practically no benefit doesn’t stop people, I hope posts like this, where victims of plagiarism say how terrifying and awful and angering it is to have their intellectual work stolen, will make someone stop before they plagiarize.

My first reaction to the whole ordeal was a sinking feeling of dread and suspicion. A lot of the evidence had been deleted before I was aware of the plagiarism, but I did a little digging and was able to find the plagiarizer had recently reviewed a book I had–a book that has only about 30 reviews on Goodreads. The chances she had stolen mine seemed high, and I was scared. I have never been plagiarized before. I had no idea what to think or what to do if my suspicions were founded. I almost didn’t want to look, but I did and quickly realized I had been right to be suspicious.

Cue feelings of horror, disbelief, and a bit of hilarity. Am I even “popular” enough as a blogger to plagiarize? Is this particular review even good enough to be worth stealing? Is this some twisted sort of honor? Any impulse to laugh died when I started reading the plagiarized review, though, because it’s just weird to see your words twisted and posted as someone else’s. The plagiarizer had taken my review, my thoughts and opinions, and attempted to make them hers by adding phrases like “these characteristics remind me of my little sister.” MY OPINIONS OF THE PROTAGONIST REMIND HER OF HER LITTLE SISTER??? The more I read, the more twisted it seemed and the sicker I felt.

When I finished, I tried to do all the rational things. I had someone else read the review to see if they saw the blatant copying that I did. I tried reading all the Twitter threads to see how the other bloggers who have been plagiarized had reacted. I tried to find a way to contact the plagiarizer politely–and initially ran into a wall. The worst thing after finding my words had been stolen was finding that I might never be able to confront the plagiarizer because her Goodreads profile had been made private, her blog reviews deleted, and her Twitter account closed. I wanted to know why I was plagiarized. And it looked as if I’d never have the chance.

I eventually did find an email address on the plagiarizer’s blog. I have emailed her and am waiting for a response. However, I have since learned more about the situation and have seen the responses she sent to other victims–and I think I will never be satisfied. She explained to them she felt she needed to post reviews on a schedule and felt she needed her reviews to be longer. But this doesn’t make sense to me, and it doesn’t seem enough. These reasons are superficial, and they can’t take away the feelings of fear and anger and hurt. I wasted hours of my life trying to track down the plagiarized review, trying to find ways to contact the plagiarizer, trying to figure out what was going on with my review and the other bloggers’ reviews. I will never get this time back.

So if plagiarizing ever seems like a good option to you, remember that the work you are stealing belongs to real people and that you’re “helping” yourself only by hurting them.

UPDATE: The reviewer replied to my email assuring me she means to take down any lingering reviews soon.  She explained she liked my review and thought by copying it she might eventually be able to review in a similar style on her own.  While I’m glad her response was calm and polite, I can’t help but feel skeptical, knowing she kept plagiarized reviews even after she had initially been confronted by other bloggers.  I think her suggestion she might delete her entire Goodreads account stems mostly from shame and the knowledge major bloggers have been spreading the word about just how far her plagiarism reached.  I worry that, if major bloggers and large numbers of bloggers were not “behind me” in this situation, I would receive much less closure.  Being plagiarized can be scary particularly for bloggers who don’t know if the weight of the blogging community will be behind them.  While on one hand I shy away from vigilante type justice and mass shaming of “bad bloggers,” I also worry that this can be the most effective way to deal with plagiarizers who may otherwise feel themselves immune from consequences.

UDPATE 2 (9/5/15): The reviewer has a new blog and continues to plagiarize, though she seems to have moved on to paraphrasing more heavily so it’s less recognizable.  Nonetheless, there are still whole sentences in her reviews clearly lifted from other bloggers’ work. For this reason, I have decided to name her.  After sending apology emails to numerous bloggers and taking down her first blog, she has demonstrated she actually has no remorse and no respect for intellectual property.  I feel readers, bloggers, authors, and publishers deserve to know she is a serial plagiarist before deciding whether to work with her.  Her name is Samantha Reed, currently blogging at Reed’s Reads and Review, formerly Reeds Reviews.  This post at Cuddlebuggery should give some more background, as it seems only fair to offer evidence of her plagiarism if I’m going to accuse her of it.  Measures are being taken to report her newest plagiarized reviews.

Briana