Wikinews talk:Plagiarism

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Tell them what to do, not just why to do it[edit]

I don't think the current draft of this does what is needed.

Explain how to not plagiarize while still reporting information synthesized from sources. Explain what does constitute plagiarism. Consider giving simple, straightforward illustrations of what to do and what not to do. New contributors may already be laboring under a mistaken understanding of what suffices to avoid plagiarism, so it needs to be spelled out clearly.

As long as the reader doesn't correctly understand how to avoid plagiarism, there's no point in going on about how important it is to avoid it.

(Note: Explaining how to not plagiarise would do almost as well, even though my spellchecker doesn't like it. :-)

--Pi zero (talk) 22:36, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

I think there is a place for both. Bawolff 04:17, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Sure, but I suggest that the practical how-to advice has to come first. A page is needed where contributors can be directed before they screw up; as is, this page apparently expects them to be directed here only after they screw up. The introductory page could be here or elsewhere, but it has to cut to the practical how-to or it won't hold the attention of a newbie who thinks they already know what to do. --Pi zero (talk) 04:59, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Incredibly overoptimistic[edit]

"Directed to before they screw up"? <rolls about in near-uncontrollable laughter>.

I'd bet good money on not one of the people who fall into the "it'd scrape a pass from my English teacher" trap having read more than one sentence from a couple of policies. They're going to need stuff like this thrown at them.

How not to plagiarise is breathtakingly simple - write in your own words.

Of course, I've seen a very large number of people pass through Wikinews who are incapable of doing just that. Utterly incapable of such. If I may be so bold.... "certain education systems seem to treat English as a collection of other people's phrases that you stick together". No, I'm not talking about a hapless tourist with a phrase book, but.... --Brian McNeil / talk 10:17, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

I recognize the trap you're falling into. An expert may be unable to explain something to a novice because they've forgotten what it's like to not already know; I've experienced that one from both sides (expert and novice). For my part, if I had enough confidence to try to write a primer in this area myself, I'd have done so and proposed it instead of starting a water cooler thread asking for input from those with more expertise. It seems we're divided into those who don't know well enough to explain, and those who know too well to explain. --Pi zero (talk) 12:41, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, certainly a very valid point.
But, I'm sure everyone can remember people at school who scraped through on plagiarism alone. Today, they rip off Wikipedia ;-)
I think one of the most amusing plagiarism-related incidents I came across on Wikinews was looking at an atrociously written report, copyediting, correcting grammar, and leaving for someone else to review due to my level of involvement. It failed as a copyvio, and I hadn't read any of the sources. I had simply turned bad plagiarism back into the reasonably well-written article it was a rip-off from. --Brian McNeil / talk 12:53, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
LOL. (Not an initialism I've used much.)
Many people may simply be clueless, for which the cure is to clue then in. They may not know what constitutes plagiarism, and they may not be able to imagine —without a good illustration to shake their thinking loose— how else to report information from copyrighted sources.
Of some passing interest: Wikibooks:Rhetoric and Composition/Plagiarism. Though that isn't specific to Wikinews circumstances, and I'd like something that gets down to brass tacks much faster. Rule three in its last section may be about the first thing to say here. --Pi zero (talk) 15:08, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I like that Wikibooks entry so much, I think we should plagiarise it. :P --Brian McNeil / talk 17:04, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
  • I have, once or twice, seen users ask how "how can i sorce without copying" and when explained "you can't copy word-for word" have reacted with "so i'll take the sorces and change it roun a bit". I think it's fair to say lack of clue is a major problem. A key line in WN:CS might be "Sources are used to source facts and information - not text". I've had to disillusion people (all off-wiki, or largely, iirc) who honestly believe the myth that copyright must be expressly claimed - and explained the offences of commercial copyright infringement, a series of largely similar charges available in the UK that cover pretty much any way you could make money from the work of others without permission. WN is safe enough as not-for-profit, but picking up one's writing skills here really ought to avoid you being so ignorant as to blunder into criminality. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 18:30, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Problematic line[edit]

The following comes across overly abrasive:

If you have been pointed at this essay, someone thinks you're creating writings on-project like an essay submission the night before it's due.

People are apt to feel insulted. Worse, the truer it is, the more they'll get defensive and that will interfere with getting the message across to them. A more detached approach may be more effective. --Pi zero (talk) 05:07, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

  • I'll not argue with that, but to some extent there is a 'balancing act'. News is 'the night before due', but the quality and originality of the writing should not be. --Brian McNeil / talk 10:03, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Harshness[edit]

Bawolff commented on the WC that he found two points in this unduly harsh. I'll not argue over that, they were quite intentionally dire warnings.

However, there are perhaps parts of those "may not be rewritten" copyright notices that certain sources throw at you which could substitute for this.

I'd repeat that it is unrealistically optimistic to think people will read a "How not to plagiarise" guide before they've first committed the sin in question. --Brian McNeil / talk 11:51, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Be that as it may, we don't want to scare people so much that they don't contribute at all. Bawolff 12:13, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Agreed. But, how do we quickly impart a good understanding of what plagiarism is? You get sick of throwing articles back at people for the third or fourth time because they've tweaked the first couple of blatant 'cut'n'pastes' you found. They think, fixed that - reviewer obviously missed the two paragraphs further down that I nicked from Reuters. --Brian McNeil / talk 13:02, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Whilst you can bicker over toning it down or otherwise, it is fair to point out that the WMF is not a viable target of civil action, whereas the violator of the law is. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 18:34, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Define plagiarism[edit]

  1. Plagiarism is the act of passing off someone else's work as your own.
    1. Neither minor rewording, or synonym substitution is an escape clause.
    2. Stringing together fragments from a variety of sources still qualifies as plagiarism.
  2. 'Research', where one draws from, and cites, multiple sources is not the same as journalistic writing.
Expand on this second point. Why is it different? This guideline is aimed at starting from basics, remember. Someone who doesn't get thath they can't sub copypasta will need things like that spelt out. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 19:46, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Just adding my definition:
  • Plagiarism is the when you copy another person's work, or when you use information from one source without attributing to that source in a works cited ("Sources" section here). In general, there should not be more than three words in a row from another source, unless of course a quotation.
This is the definition I've learned and followed. I find my definition is similar to the one in Hacker's definition. —Mikemoral♪♫ 01:37, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
The clueless will take the three-words-in-a-row rule to mean that close paraphrase is fine, as long as every fourth word is replaced with a synonym.
Does it matter what kind of words are involved? How about "Prime Minister David Cameron"? --Pi zero (talk) 02:17, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
That's where the "in general" comes in. Obviously, "National Aeronautics and Space Administration" is an exception as "Prime Minister David Cameron." Official titles usually would be exempt. Borrowed language, goes in quotes, i.e. "He went down the street and 'open fired against the couple.'" —Mikemoral♪♫ 02:26, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
An interesting recommendation to give newbies might be something like: If given the source you used, and another similar article, and someone can tell just by reading your article which one was the source you used, then its plagiarism. Is that too strict a test? Bawolff 01:59, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
I wouldn't think so. There are enough wordings in the English language to reword most sentences. Your wording should be as far as possible from the source, while still using good English. —Mikemoral♪♫ 02:15, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
  • The over-three-words suggestion is not without merit, but is too rigid. You and I have done this awhile and so applying "in general" with common sense is easy for us. Listing is also often impossible to rephrase. I'm sure we could produce dozens of other examples. Subtle rephrasing may work, however; rather than presenting it as a hard-and-fast rule with exceptions, how might we suggest this as a good guideline to adhere to whenever possible? Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 22:57, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Avoiding plagiarism[edit]

  1. Don't start writing until you have read more than one independent report on a news event.
  2. Never be tempted to lift a sentence and slightly rework it.
  3. Detail the facts, timings, and 'players' in a news report. Then only refer to your sources for direct quotes, and to fact-check.

Feel free to have a go at the above. --Brian McNeil / talk 17:17, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

  • On very rare occasions it is appropriate to directly quote a source. For example "The incident has been condemned by local media, with The Opinionated Paper calling it 'a travesty that would embarrass all but Richard Desmond's most experienced pornstars'." Very limited quoting of this fashion is acceptable to record reactions for the public record, but hammering home how little this should be done may be a challenge. Alternatively, sometimes non-news sources just have to be quoted verbatim as part of research; I refer you to Paris court jails rioters for attempted murder of police and the quote at the end which reveals just what a poor decision this was. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 18:45, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
  • You'll get no disagreement on that point from me. But, it's more generally best where you've a bylined reporter you can 'lay the blame' on. --Brian McNeil / talk 19:14, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

[Aside: Ironic that only those who know what not to do are taking part in this discussion; not our newest Bollywood star reporter.] --Brian McNeil / talk 19:14, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

I see nothing wrong with quoting non-news sources on a regular basis. In fact that kind of thing is often required for a good article. It's quoting rival news sites or agencies that I have a problem with. That should almost never be done. Gopher65talk 18:09, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
I think I've done the latter, but I can't honestly state when, such examples are so infequesnt. A good example of the exception is an article that appeared in (The New York Times?) which suggested iirc that some aspect of the Italian political scene was effectively collapsed. Whatever it said, and I recall agreeing with the sentiment at the time, the real story was the reaction of the Italian press: The article itself became national headline news. Quoting the original would therefore be clearly acceptable. In the end, if we are going to add this at all (I think people will not understand some of the subtlety and argue the toss) then we should stress that if you can possibly do without copying then you shouldn't be doing it. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 18:24, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
You should only use quotes when there is value added by using the quote over paraphrasing the information. It is rare that quoting another news source adds value compared to paraphrasing the information, where it is common that quoting the direct source does add value. However where the quote comes from shouldn't be criteria for deciding when to quote, it should be if the quote adds value that would be lost if you didn't use a quote. Bawolff 19:12, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Where I get queasy is with (usually celeb) "exclusive" interviews being quoted from. Eg "In an interview with The Outer Planet Monthly, pop star Tiny Milliwatt said, "duh?!¿"". --Brian McNeil / talk 20:19, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Thought provoking[edit]

Intriguingly, this seems to have provoked one of the most intelligent discussions I've ever had the pleasure of seeing on this wiki.

Long may it continue! It is a critical part of setting the standards the project aspires to! --Brian McNeil / talk 23:26, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Case study?[edit]

I've often wished, when reviewing articles that illustrate especially well how to not follow the structure of sources, I could somehow share what I was seeing with people who haven't yet got it, and say "there, that's what you should be doing!" Any given source sentence or paragraph verifies fragments of sentences scattered about the Wikinews article, and any given Wikinews sentence or paragraph contains bits verified by widely scattered bits of the sources. If only we can effectively illustrate that, it could be a real eye-opener for someone who's honestly trying to not plagiarize, but doesn't have a mental image of how to go about it.

Two challenges come to mind.

  • How can we effectively illustrate this? If we're not careful, it'll be both too long and not lucid enough.
  • It seems to require at least three extended texts (at least two paragraphs of Wikinews text, and likely at least three paragraphs of each source), so one has to find a manner of presentation that doesn't trigger an (understandable!) TL;DR reflex.
  • To realize quickly and easily what one is looking at, perhaps one could use multiple colors of highlighting on the Wikinews text, and matching highlighting on the source texts? Being sure to choose colors that color-blind readers can distinguish, of course.
  • Considering the lengthy source excerpts, the "obvious" way to avoid copyright issues with the sources is to invent an example — which is far more difficult to do well than merely choosing a good example from published Wikinews articles.

--Pi zero (talk) 15:48, 15 July 2011 (UTC)