If you create content, whether you’re a journalist, educator, pastor, writer, etc., than you know that coming up with original content can be difficult. Writer’s block is a common obstacle, especially when there are deadlines, and copying someone else’s material from a website is way too easy in the dry times.I started teaching as a youth pastor almost 20 years ago and have taught somewhere weekly since then. I was 22 when I started communicating on a consistent basis, but having an original thought at that age is not the norm. I’ve preached a lot of messages that weren’t mine and didn’t learn proper sourcing until I started my grad work. I’d be lying if I told you I’ve never used someone else’s material without proper sourcing.
We’ve all heard this little gem…
“Creativity is never revealing your sources.”
Or this one…
“Plagiarism? (*ppfftt*) It’s called research.”
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s not really research if you don’t leave a trail of literary breadcrumbs to your source, it’s stealing. It’s illegal and unethical to use someone else’s material without permission, or proper sourcing. Here are a few tips on adding credibility to your material.
- Learn how to properly cite your sources – Citing is easy through programs like Google Docs, or WORD. Just select footnote or end-note and one will be created for you at the bottom of the page or the end of the document. Google Docs has an add-on called Easy Bibliography Creator. Just open that up, select the format (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.), search for the source (select if it’s a book, journal, or website), select the proper source that comes up in the search, and add to your bibliography. Here are the steps below.
Also, check this great article about citing sources and image attribution by Connie Jasperson. She’s a published author and has a very helpful website.
- Take a class on methods of research –
- Grow your knowledge base – Maybe you just need to expand your own knowledge of what you’re writing about. You may have gotten by with copying someone else’s work up until now, but you’re close to committing professional suicide. Not to mention how embarrassing it is to get caught and blacklisted. It is the ultimate in betrayal to the one getting robbed only to see their work pasted on someone else’s website with no credit.
Simply reading doesn’t mean you’re going to be the next Moses, but those who read consistently will always have something fresh to say whether it’s in writing a blog post, counseling a friend, writing a paper, or preaching a sermon.
IN THE END:
The gears of personal and professional life can get stuck without keeping them well oiled. Just like those trimmers you threw away because it was grabbing the hairs out of your flesh instead of cutting them, it could have been saved by using the complimentary oil that came in the package.
No one else is going to sharpen your axe for you.
A good number of people stopped learning when they graduated from college. If that’s true of you, then its time to update your tools. Have you considered taking a class from a local university?
Just think of the person who originally created the content you’re using without permission the next time you hit publish, print, or preach. Citation is worth it to more people than you know. There are people that you’ve lost influence with because they found “your” material on someone else’s website. We live in a fact checking society and people are smarter and more skeptical than you think. You have something to say and there’s no one that can say it just like you. Just don’t let the convenience of the internet do your best work.