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On Wikinews, we use the expression distance from source to refer to two related issues: copyright violation and plagiarism.
Copyright violation is [define here].
Plagiarism is the appropriation of another party's wording without proper attribution.
For example, if a Wikinewsie were to write "To be or not to be, that is the question" (a famous line from Shakespeare's Hamlet), it would not be a copyright violation because Shakespeare's Hamlet has aged into public domain, but it would be plagiarism, because there is no time limit on that.
Plagiarism is when one person claims to have written or invented something that was really written by someone else. Plagiarism can apply to both ideas and the words used to express those ideas.
There are two ways to avoid plagiarism on Wikinews: 1. Write text in your own words. 2. Give credit using quotation marks.
Let's say that an source, Coolest Reliable News includes the following passage: "On Mount Dangerous, Jane Smith showed colossal heroism, rescuing five stranded hikers and one awesome dog."
There are several ways to use this information in a paper.
DO use indirect quotations
- Coolest Reliable News, described Smith's actions as very brave.
:: The drafter is showing that the idea came from CRN, but the wording is his or her own.
DO use quotation marks
- But what if you really like the way that the author said it? You can still use the author's exact words. They just have to be in quotation marks:
- According to Cool Reliable News, Smith showed "colossal heroism."
:: This drafter has shown that the idea and wording both came from CRN.
DON’T copy the source exactly without giving credit
- Jane Smith showed colossal heroism on Mt. Dangerous.
- This text is inappropriate because the drafter's usage will be interpreted as a claim to have come up with the expression "colossal heroism" personally. That is plagiarism. (It is also inappropriate because it inserts a value judgement about Smith's actions, but that is another essay.)
- How much rewording is enough? That is open to question. When in doubt, be as original as possible. If you look over your paper and find that it is nothing but quotations, then you should probably write down more raw facts. Remember, you are supposed to write an article, not copypaste one.
Wikinews also has access to several tools that writers can use to detect any stretches of unoriginal text they may have missed. Although they can be used to spot-check and reword stretches of identical text, their main purpose is to serve as an indicator of when too much of an article has been copied exactly. If you use DupDet or [OTHER ONE] and find you need to reword more than one or two phrases, then consider giving the whole article an overall rewrite.
For more information on plagiarism, visit the Purdue Owl site: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/01/