Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Whose Words Are You Using?

I was checking out an article on Slate about the misuse of the thesaurus and found a link to a fascinating education site.


Image Courtesy of Raphael Pinto ~

Well, actually a site that educators use—Turnitin—“…the global leader in evaluating and improving student learning.”

We all know that many students “borrow” words during their research and use them as their own.

And, I’m sure there are creative writers who do the same…

It’s called Plagiarism—its root meanings come from “kidnapping” and “thief”.

Flash Quiz:

How many kinds of plagiarism are there?


Well, according to a Whitepaper from Turnitin, there are 10 types of word theft:


An act of submitting another’s work, word-for-word, as one’s own.

2. CTRL-C:

A written piece that contains significant portions of text from a single source without alterations.


The act of changing key words and phrases but retaining the essential content of the source in a paper.


An act of paraphrasing from other sources and making the content fit together seamlessly.


The act of borrowing generously from one’s own previous work without citation; To self plagiarize.


The act of combining perfectly cited sources with copied passages—without citation—in one paper.


A paper that represents a mix of copied material from several different sources without proper citation.

8. 404 ERROR:

A written piece that includes citations to non-existent or inaccurate information about sources


The “Aggregator” includes proper citation, but the paper contains almost no original work.


This paper includes proper citation, but relies too closely on the text’s original wording and/or structure.

Ever used any of those?

Do you think some of them aren’t actually “theft”?
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4 responses to “Whose Words Are You Using?

  1. ArdRhi August 19, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Ok, just a few bullet points on this.

    – It’s not “word theft” if you use it within the good standards of research or reference. There’s no point to actually researching with sources, if you can’t actually quote or paraphrase the original without getting called some kind of thief.

    – So long as it’s cited properly and you didn’t claim the original work as your own, it isn’t a theft, it’s showing honor to the original creator and agreeing that their work was valid and correct. That’s why people publish papers in the first place, so they will be cited as authoritative.

    – Some of these “word thefts” are actually valid forms of scholarly use. What do you mean, I can’t reference another work and paraphrase the original, even if I cite it as a source?

    What’s wrong is claiming the work of others as your own work. “Cloning” the original is a heinous act of outright disrespect. But “self plagiarism?” Really? I can’t even refer to MY OWN WORK in another of MY OWN WORKS? That’s not just incorrect, it’s stupid.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alexander M Zoltai August 19, 2014 at 12:48 pm


    Thanks for your comments—I, too, don’t think all 10 of those are, technically, “word theft”—perhaps, they’re just presenting a “spectrum” of ideas—again, thank you for your comments.


  3. ArdRhi August 19, 2014 at 1:06 pm


    It’s always a good idea to remember that there IS such a thing as “fair use”, and knowing what it is and how to stay within it is essential to any kind of creative work. There’s also the school of thought that says it isn’t “theft” because you haven’t deprived the creator of anything. So long as you aren’t just filing off the serial numbers and putting your own name on it — implying that it’s YOUR WORK — and have given proper credit, then you haven’t deprived them of the fruits of their labor.

    I reference other works in my work all the time. I make sure the sources are attributed, and if the source requires explicit permission, I ask for it. (If you have time, it doesn’t hurt to ask anyway. Not for a share of a comic strip, perhaps, but if you’re going to rework it into a meme or something, it would probably be nice. They may want a link to the original, or may even say “no, you can’t do a derivative work of my piece like that. Please don’t do that.”

    I’m reminded of the Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk case, where Matthew Inman’s comics were being scraped and posted to the FunnyJunk website. Usually, the comic had been edited to remove signatures/URLs, so there was no attribution at all. Inman asked the owner of the site to please not do that, but the attitude seemed to be the classic “piss off, the Internet is public domain” sort of reaction.

    Not only did Inman win, he raised about a quarter million dollars for charity to poke the plagiarist in the nose. He took the money, in cash, and laid it out on the floor in the shape of a big “FU”, as well as the phrase “Philanthropy > Douchebaggery”, and sent copies to the owner of FunnyJunk (along with a satirical cartoon of the guy’s mother seducing a bear). The entire story is epic and a classic example of why you never mess with a minstrel.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alexander M Zoltai August 19, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Good stuff—thank you again for adding value to my post :-)


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