10 tips to avoid plagiarism

Here are some tips to avoid plagiarism for first-year journalism students.
(Originated by Ellin Bessner, updated by Shauna Rempel)

How not to plagiarize in Journalism

1. All stuff you didn’t get on your own (video, audio, quotes, photos, data) needs
attribution. Period.

2. Attribution comes in the same sentence, immediately. Not in a bibliography at
the end.
E.g.: According to Statistics Canada, more Canadians are surfing the Internet on
mobile devices than from desktop PCs. The agency’s authors told CTV.ca
“Canadians seems to like the convenience of hand-held Googling.”

3. Cite the source and use quotation marks around direct lifts (direct quotes)
According to the Toronto Star, “Jordan Selkirk was in the front passenger seat
and pronounced dead at the scene, only four blocks from his home.”

4. If you paraphrase, cite the source of the information that you didn’t get
yourself, and attribute in the same sentence.
Peel Regional Police told the Toronto Star the victim was four blocks from his
home when he was killed.

5. Websites need quotation marks and attribution, too. It’s the blogger/politician,
rock band/company’s opinion, not yours. So it’s inherently biased.
e.g.: According to the company’s own website, “British Petroleum is nice.”

6. If you are lifting a direct quote in radio or TV –- which you would do only
rarely. Usually we paraphrase…but if you DO want to cite a direct juicy quote,
say the word quote:
Drake told the Star (QUOTE) I am jealous of Justin Beiber (UNQUOTE)

7. Photos need attribution if you did not take them yourself.
Check your company policy about taking stuff from Facebook, Flickr or other
sites. This comes up in stories that go to victims’ social media pages after a

8. Don’t cut and paste into your own story draft/document
While researching, this is easy to do, but under deadline pressure, you could
forget to remove the original source stuff. Some people suggest use different
fonts when you are gathering info from sources you didn’t get yourself. This will
help you notice the difference.

9. When rewriting, close the urls/browser after researching and write it in your
own words, from memory. After each website search.
E.g.: Check TSN hockey story about Leafs game. Close URL. Write first
paragraph in your own words. Keep writing.
Open Toronto Star story about Leafs game. Close URL. Write middle of the
story, in your own words. Keep writing.

10. Add the links. Let the reader see your own original content, but link to
databases, blogs, tweets and other online sources which you used to help you
write the story.


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