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Casey 💎 for The DEV Team

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DEV Community: How to Avoid Plagiarism

Heyo devs!

For those of you who aren't familiar with me, I'm Casey - a Community Associate at Forem. It's so awesome to be a part of this amazing community :)

As DEV continues to grow, it's our goal to ensure that DEV remains a place of integrity and inclusiveness. With our stance on Community Moderation, it's important that we provide the guidance and tools for everyone to be able to identify and flag problems that may affect a single author or hundreds of thousands of DEV users.

This posts' purpose and goal is to help provide simple and effective guidance to combat plagiarism as a community.

What is Plagiarism?

Oxford Languages defines plagiarism as, "the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own." - however, it's not always as clear as this.

A great break down of the four common types of plagairism was written by Bowdoin University, in tl:dr fashion these are:

- "Direct Plagiarism"

- "Self Plagiarism", though this is mostly in academic settings

- "Mosaic Plagiarism"

- "Accidental Plagiarism"

Let's take a little deeper look into the two main types that we encounter in our own community.

Direct Plagiarism, this is the most blatant form of plagiarism we encounter. This is generally a user copying and pasting content from another blog, or document, and claiming it as their own.

Mosaic Plagiarism, generally happens when someone is inspired by another users work and wants to write about the same topic, typically in the form of copying and pasting certain passages but they fail to cite the original author.

How to Avoid Plagiarizing Someones Work?

Luckily, avoiding plagiarism is pretty easy once you know how to identify it. Typically, you can do by providing a straightforward source and citation in your post.

When should I cite something?

If you're pulling information from an external source, that's not your own, you should cite where the information came from. For example, say you're writing an article on using an npm package, axios, and you're using information from their documentation — you should link their docs in your article. This not only gives them credit for their work but helps the DEV community in case someone wanted to do more research about the topic.

If you copy a source directly — you should use quotes and absolutely provide a source + citation. If you just looked at a source and paraphrased it in your own words, you don't need to use quotations, but it's still best to cite the source.

Honestly, if in doubt, provide a source + citation! It's unlikely anyone will fault you for offering too many citations or listing too many sources... however, if you are discovered misappropriating someone's work as your own without citing sources, this is likely to upset folks.

How should I cite something?

Great question! I cited Bowdoin University's post above.

See how I linked to the university actual post on plagiarism (the source) + quoted the plagiarism types that they named. And notice that I didn't try to misappropriate these ideas as my own in any way, but made it explicitly clear that this information came from Bowdoin.

This allows you (the reader) to do more research at the original source.

How to Recognize & Report Plagiarism?

Now that you know how to properly cite sources, let's talk a bit about how to recognize plagiarism and where to go to report it.

Recognizing Plagiarism

Sometimes, this may just happen naturally, meaning you might notice something you've read before, do a quick search, and boom there it is word for word. The same thing can happen with images or code — perhaps you see a graph (or code block) you recognize from elsewhere. In these cases, it's pretty clear cut that they should be reported (see below 👇)

Other times, you may notice that someone isn't taking content from another source word-for-word, but their content feels too close for comfort. Same thing with code or images — maybe their graph is in blue instead of red like the original, or maybe their code has slightly different variables but is otherwise the same. Again, these should be reported!

What about those times when someone seems to be claiming that a repo or CodePen is theirs (when it's not)? ... Definitely reportable!

As for examples that likely should not be reported:

  • someone is reposting their own work that they first posted elsewhere
  • someone is giving a shoutout to someone else's work or has written a companion piece to someone else's post (while making it clear it's unaffiliated)

Reporting Plagiarism

If you encounter plagiarism, the absolute BEST action you can take is to report the post. Reporting the post sends it directly to our community team to take action.

We do not recommend calling anyone out in the comments section — as we discussed before, plagiarism can be accidental and/or is sometimes enforced differently in a variety of cultures, so we recommend to simply report the post, rather than getting personally involved which could divulge into arguments and further conduct violations.

Wrap Up

We hope this advice is helpful! Of course, if you think we missed any good points here or would like to add your own advice, feel free to comment down below!

Discussion (13)

afif profile image
Temani Afif • Edited on

Let's hope this post will also play as a warning for people doing plagiarism 😉

A good free tool I always use to detect plagiarism is ... Google! yes google. If you have any doubt about any content, take 3 or 4 sentences for the post (always from the middle, not from the beginning) and put them on the search result. If it's a plagiarism you will get the original post.

Another advice is to consider formatting. Bad formatted posts are generally plagiarism due to the simple copy/past (yes, some users are lazy to format what they pick elsewhere)

icecoffee profile image
Atulit Anand

That's actually clever

johansansebastian profile image
Johan Sebastian

That was actually a good point to note for.....Thanks

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

Thanks so much for writing this up Casey, this is super helpful advice all around! I really like how you covered the plagiarism that is specific to the developer world — folks copying code without giving credit or misrepresenting repos at their own.

So happy to be working with ya to remove plagiarism from the site and educate folks on how to properly cite sources!

graciegregory profile image
Gracie Gregory (she/her)

This is awesome. Thanks to the entire Community Success team for the work you do protecting people and their work.

incrementis profile image
Akin C.

Hello Casey 💎,

thanks for your article!
I assume the diamond is part of your name so I put it in there :D!
Showing respect for someone's work is always important because at least two simple reasons came to my mind (besides the reason that the work is not one's own).

  1. This person's work seems to be "teaching" and therefore has some value to you if used
  2. That person's work was done with difficulty, and if the person is not named, the effort will not be respected

However, there may be licenses or other situations where the work can be used by someone else without naming. Therefore, I fully agree with
"If you encounter plagiarism, the absolute BEST action you can take is to report the post. Reporting the post sends it directly to our community team to take action."

Please consider some research before blocking the content. Otherwise, it could lead to great displeasure. Take, as an example, an extreme situation where a group of people does not report real plagiarism just to create such unrest within the community.

But keep in mind that I am not an expert on such critical situations. These are just some thoughts.

itscasey profile image
Casey 💎 Author

Hey Akin!

I completely agree with you! There's definitely a gray area that may be unknown to an average user. We're always looking into reports and also reaching out to the original authors in some instances.

Please consider some research before blocking the content.

You betcha! All reports are reviewed by the Community Success team, Michael, Ella, and myself before any action is taken. We're also very forgiving in most instances because a lot of times it's not malicious

mellen profile image
Matt Ellen • Edited on

What I find odd, as some plagiarised posts are easy to spot from their title alone*, is that the things being plagiarised often exist on multiple pages on the web, which raises the question: are the plagiarisers plagiarising other plagiarisers?

* Titles like "unions with c" or "c strings" or other such short titles, always about C.

craigross profile image

Anyone know how do we stop people stealing our front end code in chrome extensions now that Google are discontinuing the licensing api (which normally protects front end code for paid for chrome extensions)?

andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

Good information.

best_digital_trendz profile image
Best Digital Trendz

Great information... thanks for share

ozzie_eu profile image
João Osório

Someone tell user @abusayed to read this...

lethargilistic profile image
Michael MacTaggert • Edited on

In case someone would be interested in the POV of a Plagiarist!