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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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!