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The Question of Plagiarism and a Writer’s Intent

7th September 2012 Posted in Blog, Writing 0 Comments

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If the controversy with Fareed Zakaria has taught us anything, it’s that readers are smart. After all, though Zakaria is a well-respected journalist and writer, his missteps in borrowing ideas from other texts was caught quickly and pointed out nearly immediately.

This admission on his part and revelation on the part of readers began an interesting discussion: is what he did plagiarism? Borrowing ideas from other articles is not a new concept, but taking text directly from another writer’s piece of work is a no-no.

The conversation among writers and publishers seemed to focus on the idea that plagiarism is plagiarism. But is it? When covering a story and reviewing sources, there is ample possibility that one might write down a line that they found in their research. It might not be intentional; it may just have been an oversight.

  • Is it right to call someone out for copying another’s work when it may have been an honest mistake?
  • Can we truly know if a writer simply wrote the same sentence as another person or if they deliberately stole from another’s work?

These are questions that need to be considered in the world of online writing. Since we’re exposed to more writing than in the past, it’s likely we might write something someone else already has written.

But is that a horrible thing? Is that something that we should immediately condemn?

What are your thoughts? Does intent have any place in a discussion on plagiarism? Please leave a comment.

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