Broaching this topic is rather like opening a can of worms.
I started writing this blog post months ago. It’s a topic that keeps cropping up on social media, so I think it’s about time I addressed it.
Since I started blogging in 2016, I’ve seen a lot of drama. Nobody believes me when I say the world of aromatherapy is fraught with cut-throat squabbling. And it’s certainly not all MLM wars. Outsiders would be surprised at the extent of political infighting that goes on.
What are the arguments about? Well, many things. But one of the issues is plagiarism, and this is what I’m talking about today.
So far, I haven’t personally experienced any plagiarism from my work (as far as I know). But it’s an issue that affects many bloggers, writers and other content creators – not just in aromatherapy, but across all areas of interest.
When it comes to online content, plagiarism is rife. The problem is that it can be such a grey area. Plagiarism doesn’t have to mean copying content word for word.
Everyone understands that copy and pasting content is clear plagiarism. But what else is classed as plagiarism? Can you plagiarise ideas?
There is SO much confusion about this, to the extent that I’m regularly contacted by people asking permission to share my posts on Facebook!
Spreading awareness of plagiarism is good, but it’s got to the point where people are scared to even share a meme in case it’s classed as plagiarism.
I’ve witnessed a lot of vaguebooking and whispering behind the scenes about plagiarism. But I’m not sure how helpful this is, because now people are more confused than ever about what they are allowed to share and post online. I think it always helps to be specific. So let’s clarify some facts…
What IS plagiarism?
The Oxford Dictionary defines plagiarism as “The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.”
While they can overlap, plagiarism and copyright infringement are not the same thing. Copyright infringement is a legal issue, whereas plagiarism is a matter of ethics (as explained brilliantly in this article).
Examples of plagiarism include:
- Copy and pasting content (with no reference to the source)
- Paraphrasing someone else’s content without adding any value or original material
- Quoting content (or using graphics) without giving credit to the source
- Presenting someone else’s unique theory as your own
What is NOT plagiarism?
- Sharing a public post, meme or video online (i.e. by copy and pasting the link, or clicking ‘Share’)
- Quoting from a book, website, blog article, etc. PROVIDING a proper citation is given. If the content is online, include a link. If it’s from a book, include the title and author.
- Writing about topics that other people have previously written about (more on this below)
Can you copy ideas?
So, what about plagiarising ideas – is that a thing? Yes. But If you’re claiming ownership of an “idea”, at what point do we draw the line?
Just because I wrote an article called “10 Reasons to Avoid Raindrop Therapy”, I can’t stop someone else from writing a general article about reasons to avoid raindrop therapy. I can’t even stop them from using the same title.
But if that person copy and pasted my article and passed it off as their own – yes, that would definitely be plagiarism.
If that person quoted parts of my article without providing a reference – that would be plagiarism.
If they closely paraphrased the content of my post, perhaps just tweaking a few words here and there, without adding any value or original material – yes, that would also be classed as plagiarism.
If they have just written an article about the same subject, which brings up some similar points – it’s not necessarily plagiarism. I don’t own the rights to writing about raindrop therapy. I can’t stop other people from writing their own version of “10 Reasons to Avoid Raindrop Therapy”. But that’s the point – it needs to be their own version.
Why sharing is GOOD
When someone (like me) posts public content online, it is designed to be shareable. Social media is all about shareable content. That’s how blogs and YouTube channels grow their audience.
I don’t sit here and write stuff for it to disappear into the ether. I am writing content that I hope will educate/inform/inspire/interest people. Every time someone shares one of my blog posts or videos, it helps to bring that content to a wider audience.
What I’m saying is – please share my posts and videos! You don’t need to ask 🙂
We know there is too much crazy advice out there. The whole point of The English Aromatherapist blog is to promote safe, positive information about essential oils. We want to spread this message far and wide – so keep sharing those links and Facebook posts!
Sharing links is not plagiarism, because you are not passing the work off as your own. It’s freely available content, and you are simply sharing it with others.
What’s the point of learning if we can’t share the information that we learn? We’re not members of a secret society, we are supposed to be educating each other and sharing knowledge.
It’s ok to share what you learn – just make sure you’re referencing the source of that knowledge and give credit where it’s due.
When it comes to spreading good information, surely it’s a case of the more the merrier? After all, the more people are writing about these topics, the more it helps to balance out the nonsense online.
For every blog post encouraging people to add drops of lemon oil to their glass of water every day, there needs to be TWO blog posts explaining why this is a bad idea!
You can’t get upset because you wrote a blog post about that last week. You can’t claim they have “copied” you just because they also chose to write about that topic.
Always try to reference where possible. Clearly, common sense is required. We can’t possibly reference everything we say or write. Our knowledge may have accumulated over years, and some of what we know is classed as common knowledge. Not everything can be attributed to a specific source.
For example, if you say “Lemon oil is phototoxic”, it doesn’t need a reference because it’s common knowledge. But if you say “Lemongrass has a maximum dermal limit of 0.7%”, that should include a reference to Essential Oil Safety 2nd Edition by Tisserand & Young, because that’s the unique source of the information.
If in doubt – provide the reference anyway. You’re not just covering yourself, you’re helping the original author and it also makes your content more useful for the reader.
A reference backs up what you’re saying and gives it credibility. It shows that you have done your research. When I write a blog post, I usually spend a long time reading, researching and making notes. I believe that providing references not only adds integrity to a post, but also makes it more useful for readers. It becomes a richer, more informative piece of work.
Reasons not to plagiarise
- It’s ethically wrong
- It’s misleading for your readers
- It makes you look unoriginal
- It’s unfair for the original content creator
- It’s unprofessional
If you’re going to write about something, put your own spin on it. There is enough room for everyone. Don’t just copy other people for the sake of it. What’s the point? Be unique!
Have you been plagiarised?
If you think your work has been plagiarised, I would advise contacting the suspect directly. After all, it may not have been intentional. The similarities may be coincidental. What’s more, many websites outsource their content creation and may not be aware it has been plagiarised. Speak to them first before jumping to any conclusions.
Is plagiarism inevitable with online content? Yes. But that doesn’t make it ok. Always reference your sources and give credit where it’s due.
I hope I’ve cleared up some of the confusion regarding sharing posts and what is classed as plagiarism. Here are some great links where you can read more about the subject:
Plagiarism and Aromatherapy:
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