Is it plagiarism or research?

Everybody knows it’s wrong to plagiarize.  And yet, it still happens.  A lot of plagiarism in purposeful, but some is due to uncertainty, and perhaps just a little wishful thinking.

It has been said that to copy from one source is plagiarism, but to copy from three or more sources…that’s called “research”.

Plagiarize, Let no one else’s work evade your eyes, Remember why the good Lord made your eyes, So don’t shade your eyes, But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize – Only be sure always to call it please ‘research’.

Ugly PliagiarismBut is it research?  If you copy, you copy.  If you copy from three sources, it’s still copying.  Even if you reword it all, it’s still copying. It might not legally be plagiarizing, but that’s just the law.  The law doesn’t make it original. The bigger question is this: if you just copy from three, ten or 50 sources, is there any point to writing?  Why not just refer people to the three, ten or 50 works?

I am never forget the day my first book is published. Every chapter I stole from somewhere else. Index I copy from old Vladivostok telephone directory.

It has been said that there are no truly original ideas under the sun.  To some extent, that is true.  Certainly, anything you write will be built largely on ideas that have already been circulating.  But if you bring nothing new, nothing original, nothing that comes from you, what is the point of writing it. It is the original thinking that makes your writing worthwhile.

I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky. In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize!

The “research” is not plagiarism if you connect it all together in new ways or remix it to put forward a fresh perspective.  Research is good; copycatting is pitiable.

 * Lyrics quoted above are from “Lobachevsky” by Tom Lehrer:

QUESTION: How original do you feel your original writing needs to be?

About David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt is President of The Happy Guy Marketing, a published author, a "Distinguished Toastmaster", a former consumer advocate, a social media addict and experienced with media relations and government reports.

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  1. Not to mention there are all sorts of acceptable ways to give credit where credit is due. Informal credit can be easily worked into creative nonfiction to honor source material or end notes can be used. For the more adventuresome, there’s MLA, APA, etc.

  2. Hi David. In general I agree with you that, legal or not, copying is weak. It shows a lack of imagination and/or knowledge about the subject matter. If you are going to put the time into writing something, then it is worth taking some time to really research it, gain a level of understanding about it, and form some of you own opinions. Then do your writing.

    Thanks for sharing the post.

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