Content Standards: Non-original content, aka plagiarism
This is the fifth of a 10-part series explaining Bleacher Report’s Content Standards in depth.
Bleacher Report prides itself as a forum where sports fans worldwide can come together and share fresh, original content, with the emphasis on “original.” With roughly 800 pieces of content published each day, it’s imperative that each piece contains original thoughts enhancing the reader experience.
Non-original content will be removed, and the punishment can be as severe as a loss of writing privileges on the site.
Bleacher Report’s Content Standards identify three categories of non-original content:
The mantra has been repeated numerous times on B/R: A zero-tolerance policy exists for the offense, and as such, cases will result in a removal of writing privileges.
It is important to note that plagiarism is not always as simple as copying and pasting words and/or ideas from someone else and passing them off as your own.
As Plagiarism.org notes, the practice is a bit more inclusive:
- Turning in someone else’s work as your own
- Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
- Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
- Giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
- Changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
- Copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on “fair use” rules).
The biggest misconception about plagiarism is that slightly re-wording something from another source—and not giving credit to that source—is OK. That is not the case. As Purdue OWL notes, paraphrasing still requires proper citations and rewriting.
With NBA Mock Draft season in full swing, here is a timely example of an informative paragraph written by Derek Bodner of Draft Express:
Offensively, Nicholson relies heavily on a very refined post game that’s tough to defend at this level, particularly when paired with the improving perimeter game he showed last year. With good footwork, counter moves, and an ability to finish with either hand, Nicholson has plenty of moves in the low post.
Let’s say you’ve been assigned a mock draft but need some help on some later prospects, like Andrew Nicholson, who may go in the first round but has only appeared on national television a few times. Therefore, you have to do some extra research on the side to supplement your memories watching him live alongside a few YouTube clips.
If you find a good passage to use, you can quote it as long as it’s sourced properly, as it is above. You also have the option to paraphrase the passage, though you must still cite and link to the source material, and the syntax must be completely rewritten in your own words.
Here are improper and proper ways to do this:
Nicholson depends a lot on a refined post game that is hard defend at this level, especially when combined with the better perimeter game he showed last year. He has good feet, counter moves and can finish with his left and right hands, so he has a solid skill set in the low post.
Is there any true difference between the two passages aside from a few word changes? Not really. Plus, Bodner’s work isn’t properly cited, so this is technically plagiarism when you consider that the two paragraphs’ structures are largely the same.
As Derek Bodner of DraftExpress notes, Nicholson’s offensive repertoire in the post makes him difficult for defenders to guard. Given his ability to score from outside—combined with an ability to score with both hands and some impressive footwork—the 6’9” power forward reigned as a potent threat during his days at D-I mid-major St. Bonaventure.
The same ideas are expressed here, but the wording and sentence structures have been completely altered. It’s also clear that these are Bodner’s ideas, as they are properly sourced.
Ultimately, you will probably feel the need to paraphrase someone’s original writing and thoughts, so if you decide to do so, you must follow the standards above.
2. Recycled Submissions
Writers are allowed to repost their own articles from personal sites as long as the articles comply with our Content Standards and are timely enough to provide a fresh user experience on B/R.
However, the following is forbidden:
- Self-plagiarizing one’s own B/R work (i.e. recycling old writing without sourcing).
- Excessive reuse of older excerpts (B/R or otherwise) in newer work, even if properly sourced.
3. Excessive Borrowing
Joining the rat race to report breaking news on B/R is not worth it if the content you produce contains, for example, 200 words of quoted information and just 100 words of your own writing.
Excerpting material from other sources is fine if done in moderation. The goal is to give your original take on a story while using (and crediting and linking) sources to provide background. Give your readers enough information to know what you’re writing about, while also giving them the option to click on the link for more information.
No B/R reader wants to read something he or she can get at the original source. As such, articles in that vein (breaking and non-breaking news alike) will be removed from the site until they can be revised.
Along these lines, re-posting a press release or news dispatch is strictly forbidden. All such submissions will be removed.
Writers are welcome to use information contained in press releases as a jumping-off point for their originally written articles, but all press release excerpts must be properly cited and quoted.
In general, make sure that at least 75 percent of your work is original writing to avoid such a violation.
Ultimately, the premise is simple: If you use someone else’s work, please make every effort to give the proper credit to avoid being cited for plagiarism.
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Paul Kasabian is Bleacher Report’s Content Moderation Coordinator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.