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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Risks of Plagiarism in the Internet Age

Online Plagiarism is a genuine concern for writers in this modern internet age. If you pour yourself into your work, then share it with the world via the internet, how can you ensure that that work is protected? How do you prevent your work being plagiarized?

Is Copyright Enough?
If you’re a creative professional then having an online portfolio is a key way of sharing your work with others, and marketing it to potential clients. But if your work is online it could be tempting for someone else to try to copy it and claim it as their own. So what can you do to protect your work? Well firstly, you need to know that no matter where you place your work online, unless you sign a document giving away your rights to it, the copyright to that work will always be yours. Copyright gives you the right to control your work , so make sure that you place your name and a copyright statement on every piece of work you publish online. However, of course, simply seeing that copyright statement or logo wouldn’t prevent an unscrupulous character from lifting your work. Other practical steps you can take are to place a watermark over any images you publish to accompany your writing (so no one can use them without citing you and your work). Finally if you discover someone copying your work then the best thing you can do is send them a friendly but firm email asking them to remove your copied work from their site. If this doesn’t work then the Digital Millennium Copyright Act contains a cease and desist notice you can send to the offender. Finally, if you’re still having no luck getting your work removed from someone else site or cited as your own, a letter from a lawyer might be enough to scare them into action, as a final step.

Plagiarism and School
Plagiarism is the biggest concern for those writing for the educational sector. If you write on a subject that will be of interest to college students then it’s likely your work might be plagiarized. School pupils are often told that plagiarism or ‘copying’ work they find online is cheating and unethical. And there is a lot of grey area in the world of online plagiarism too: is lifting two or three sentences from an essay you find online plagiarism, if you fit it into a 12 page paper plagiarism? To many colleges it is. And no doubt to you, the author that worked so hard to create the original work, it is too! For this reason there are often investigations into the practice of buying essays or reports online. If you want to write online to earn some extra money, never reply to ads asking for writers to write college papers for students: this plagiarism is unethical and could affect the future college careers of those you are writing for. 

Avoid Plagiarism
It’s often said that nothing is new in the creative arts any more. If you have an idea, it’s likely that someone has already had that very same idea already. So how can you avoid plagiarism, both intentional and unintentional, in your own work? Firstly, start each new writing day afresh: if you have been reading just before you start writing, especially if you have been reading works by authors whose topics or styles are similar to your own, then it’s likely that you could subconsciously slip words or phrases that aren’t your own into your piece. Finally don’t forget that there are now a very sophisticated range of online plagiarism detection tools available online: if in doubt about the true originality of your work (or somebody else’s work!)then you could always run it through an online plagiarism detection tool for extra piece of mind that the work you are so proud of really and truly is your own.


Written by Claire Baines

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Maintaining Focus when Writing

It is a problem experienced by the best of writers at one time or another: struggling to focus on your writing because of external distractions. Do you always have just one more email you’d like to reply to before you start writing? Need to get the kids their dinner or help them with their homework? Want to make sure your stationary cupboard is fully stocked? There are so many reasons not to buckle down and get on with the business of writing! If this sounds like you then here are a few tips for focusing on your writing and getting your work back on track:

Set a Writing Schedule!
It’s important to see your creative writing as a job and the best way to do that is to set yourself daily deadlines, just like you would in an office environment! How you organize these deadlines is up to you: what’s important is that you set them, achieve them, and they are realistic. Some writers like to set themselves daily word counts: for example, they must write 1,000 words a day. Other writers prefer to focus on quality rather than quantities of work produced and instead try to work solidly for certain chunks of time instead: you must sit at your desk for two hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, for example. It doesn’t matter what targets you set, just set them and stick to them!

Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol
The list of writers who have struggled with alcoholism during the course of their career is seemingly endless. Raymond Chandler abused alcohol for the entire duration of his writing career. Welsh poet Dylan Thomas spent much of his career boasting about his drinking and his health deteriorated rapidly towards the end of his life due to this vice. He ultimately slipped into a coma whilst drinking to celebrate his 39th birthday and died four days later. Finally Edgar Allan Poe died at the young age of just 40, and his unexplained death has been attributed in turn to a mix of alcoholism, drugs, cholera, and tuberculosis. Although all of these writers had huge success during their careers, of course, there is no glorifying drinking as you write. There is no merit to drinking simply due to the ill-conceived idea that it might contribute to your art. If you do feel you are drinking too much during the writing process then seek help before the problem escalates too much. You can find support wherever you are from Florida alcoholic help, to New York rehabilitation centers. Don’t be tempted to reach for a beer or a glass of wine whilst you’re working, but do keep hydrated. Being properly hydrated will actually help to increase your concentration. Water makes up approximately 60% of your body mass and about 80% of your brain, so it makes sense that drinking it will add to your brain power!!  Keep a jug of water on your desk as you work, and get into the habit of sipping throughout the day.

Create the Perfect Work Environment
Working on your laptop whilst curled up on your sofa might feel comfy, but it certainly won’t aid your productivity! If you want to work smart then work at a desk: preferably in an office or a separate room away from the hustle and bustle of family life. If that’s not possible (if your desk is in your living room for example) then ensure that you turn the TV, radio, or any other stimulus off whilst you’re trying to wrote. Listening to Oprah might be a pleasant way to spend the afternoon, but it won't help your work! Keep your working environment tidy and clutter free; after all, having a tidy space is conductive to having a tidy mind. Finally, avoid the lure of the writers favorite haunt: the coffee shop. Working in a coffee shop with your laptop and a latte may make you feel like a ‘real writer’ but it certainly won’t aid your word count! The people-watching opportunities in a coffee shop are endless, and it’s far more exciting to see what’s going on around you than it is to edit that final chapter. Stay at home and increase your productivity instead! 

Written by Claire Baines