Plagiarism by Newbies: The Importance of Citing Sources and Honesty

Every Friday, I search for posts to present for my Minnow Fridays blog. I choose 3 posts from the #newbieresteemday tag that shows quality content by newbies in Steemit.

I have been doing this for the past 6 weeks but I will be on break this week as I would like to tackle something I find concerning that I see from some newbies. And I understand that for some, it is just a matter of unawareness so I would like to discuss this with you.

Important Note: The only reason why I am calling out newbies with the #newbieresteemday tag is because this is what I curate weekly. I know that this issue affects any tags and users - newbies or oldies. So this post is for anyone who want to learn more about plagiarism and citations.

Failure to Properly Cite Sources

I always find really nice and well-written posts. The authors definitely know how to write but something is missing - citations. I see 2 types here:

  • those that cite the website but don't indicate the actual source or URL. Do you really want to give us a hard time searching for your source?

  • those that don't cite sources at all making it look like the photo or part of the content is theirs. Did you know that this can be seen as stealing?

While the first one seems to be a common practice here in Steemit, I would like to suggest the most proper way of referencing sources.

Citations in Blogs

Citing sources for blog posts is really easy as compared to citing sources for an academic paper. Think about citation styles such as the APA (American Psychological Association) style which are really strict in format and are sooo long. According to Plagiarism Today, you do not need to use this in blog posts as these styles aren't practical for blogs and a simple link will suffice.

Souce link. Easy Peasy, right?

But it takes more time to copy a link and format it.

Believe me it will only take a few minutes. And this few minutes will save you possible issues in the future. And this will add more quality to your content because it shows that ethical practice of giving credit to owners.

Failure to cite sources may also be seen as plagiarism even if you did not intend to because you made it look like it's your original content.

That sounds like an accusation. Not really. Please allow me to discuss this further.

hacking-2903156_1280.jpgimage by IAmMrRob source: Pixabay


When I look up the word plagiarism or plagiarize, I get 2 definitions. I will quote the one from Merriam-Webster:


  1. "to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source"
  2. "to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source"

This leads us to the different types of Plagiarism. Oh yes, they take different forms! I found an easy to understand online article on this from Holy Family University, from this site you'll learn that there is Intentional and Unintentional Plagiarism. And you may read their blog to learn more on how you may be plagiarizing content unknowingly.

  • Unintentional Plagiarism

This reflects the first definition above. While you did not intend to plagiarize, you failed to acknowledge the source even if you have stated that it's not yours.

  • Intentional Plagiarism

This reflects definition number 2 above. In this case, the person is fully aware of that he or she is cheating by taking an idea or creation from someone and presenting it as his or her own.

Copy Paste

I also encounter some of this. They have taken laziness to the next level and just copy an entire article! There are also those smarter ones who change a few words or subsititute some words. This is stealing.

If you must copy a content verbatim then you must properly quote. See what I did earlier when I copied the definition from Merriam- Webster. I quoted the exact parts that were copied because I needed to use their words for the definition.

Failure to cite sources is something understandable if you're a newbie. It may just be the lack of awareness. But intentional plagiarism is unacceptable! You do not need to be an experienced blogger, photographer or any er to know that stealing someone else's work is a crime.

thieves-2012538_1280.jpgimage by ElisaRiva
source: Pixabay

But I am not a thief!

Calm down. Maybe it's the first time you've read about literary or photography theft. Yes, such things exist.

Nothing's free in this world. Well, except for images that are clearly free to use (CC0/ Creative Commons Zero and Public Domain images).UPDATE: While there are no legal requirements to cite CC0 or free images, it is ethical to do so. And there is also a proper way of acknowledging the owner by citing not only the site where you found it, but a link to the owner as well. I have updated the citations for the Pixabay images above. Thanks to @rubencress for pointing that out.

He also provided an in-depth discussion about Copyright and even gave tips on how to avoid plagiarism. Check out this blog:

Let's Talk About Copyright by @xposed


Since you're a newbie, you probably have not yet heard of @steemcleaners. If you have, then good for you.

If they see you or anyone see you plagiarizing, whether intentional or not, you can be reported. This will result to a flag but they are kind to inform you why you have been flagged. This is a way to educate someone of legal or ethical practices, but I hope you do not wait for a flag. Flags are not good for you.

If you also find a user who plagiarizes and have no way to tell that person directly (especially if it may result to conflicts or retaliations), you may report plagiarism to Steemcleaners by submitting it to:

Please research on the post you are reporting. Ensure that it is indeed plagiarism and provide supporting links of the sources from your investigation.

Final Words

Finally, remember that anything you post here is uneditable after 7 days. You are posting on the blockchain which is immutable. If the original author comes after you due to intentional plagiarism then there is no way to take it back. The evidence is there to stay.


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Great article @wanderlass, all newbies should be aware of this but sadly many choose the easy route and ignore it.

I just want to add two other things regarding images

1 - sometimes CC0 or free images still require you to quote them, like this one I used recently, so always read the terms of use very clearlyScreenshot_20180325-141613_1.jpg

2 - using an image from a newspaper and quoting them doesn't necessarily mean that is ok. Newspapers have copyright over their images or sometimes they pay royalties to agencies to use images, but that doesn't mean you can re-use it without their consent.


Thank you for this additional information @livinguktaiwan. Yes, it is important to always check on attribution requirements of an image. Like in Pixabay, it's clearly stated under an image that attribution is not required. If this is not clear, better research further. I am upvoting this so you're on top of the comments. This is great additional information. Thank you! :)


We're all just trying to do what we can to make this a better platform!!!

Thank you for the heads up @wanderlass. I am going to be a month old soon and there is so much to learn and take note of. Will keep this in mind every time I write my post .


You're welcome. Just keep on researching and practicing these learnings. There will come a time all these information will be natural for you to recall. And happy 1 month old soon! :D


I'll remember that... thanks again 👍

What did you choose sir


What do you mean, what did I choose? And I'm not a sir, I'm a lass.


I respect you and what you say

Excellent post! Thanks for sharing this today in PYPT! 😊


Thank you for the support @thekittygirl. I love the PYPT show :)

Us newbies have so far to go and so little time to get there. I try to remember to site sources but i do admitedly slip a bit of the time. I mean i am embarased to admit it honestly was my second month here before i learned how to compress links like this so they don't look like garbage. One step at a time i suppose.


I can relate. There are so much overwhelming information that we have to learn here (from formatting, steem, passwords, etc). And don't be embarrassed, that's very understandable. I have learned these as well one step at a time.


Ugh, formatting. Yet another thing i am working on to make my posts look less like poo. They are getting better though. Baby steps.


Lol. That's alright, my older posts look like poo too. We all start somewhere :)

Thank you for a great post. You are much more calm and rational than I when discussing plagiarism. I tend to froth at the lips and drop f bombs :)

Two cases this week that I saw. One used watermarked photos in his post. The text may have been copied, I didn't even check. I used only my second flag ever on this one. The person replied to me and said he had sourced his images, please remove the flag. He provided the search results that he chose from. The flag stands.

The other was an Adsactly post, where the guy copy pasted the whole thing and simply edited his name into the authors spot. He did replace the link in the Adsactly logo so the upvotes went to him. This is the 3rd time for that in the last month.

Thanks for fighting the fight. If Steemit ever figures out the sign up bottleneck this will be the largest issue we face. Thank you for helping to curb this.


Thanks for the kind words @bigtom13 I was calm here but I also get frustrated when I see them especially when it looks intentional.

Wow the number of obviously plagiarized post that you found in a month's time. And the things they do! That person who copied the Adsactly post is another level, even thought of replacing the logo when that person could use the time spent editing to create an original content. If they can't write, there are other things they can do in Steemit to earn.

And thanks too for your courage to flag these people and let them know that they're doing something wrong. A flag will hurt one post, but if they learn from it then they will improve and do right in their succeeding post.

Indeed that is often the first thing that I see in most newbies that first start out.

I myself got corrected by @surpassinggoogle when I was just mentioning under the images the words from google.

Citing google as a source is not citing the original author or creator!!

If they are from a community that I am in I can reach out and message them but if I don't know them I leave a message and hopefully they take it positively as I did when I was corrected.


That's so nice of @surpassinggoogle It is better to be corrected so you don't encounter issues. I personally feel uncomfortable correcting someone unless I know that person. I just don't know how they will react. I'm also afraid of flags in case they misinterpret my honest concern. So maybe I'll have more confidence on that part if I have already grown here. And I admire people who have the courage to properly call out someone. It's a skill I still have to learn.

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This is a really good post! I'm relatively new so the information here is very useful for me.

So far, I've avoided having to credit any images by simply using my own. Well, I suppose I do say or imply that the images are mine so hopefully that counts. I'm not sure if I've had to list any references though. Usually, I just include links directly in the text of the post. For example,

Shio-koji has been used in Japan for centuries as a seasoning or ingredient.

Is the above enough or should I include the link again in a references list at the end of my post?


You have already linked it so that's enough. I just wanted a summary list at the end of my post for the text references. I also see some that do not hyperlink at the body of the post (but mentions the authors or sites) and only add a Reference section. You can do it either way, I'm just being OC ;)

For photos, I watermark some of mine or I add a footnote that the photos are mine. Tbh, this is something unclear to me. In academic papers (depending on format), it is required to have your name and date (if known) of the photo. I do not see this in blogs though and I haven't found an article with a clear guideline. I guess the problem there is if someone would steal your photo and you have to prove that you own the copyright.

I checked @rubencress' photos and he adds the c mark. I also see different practices, some indicate a note in the end that the photos are copyrighted and even add that they can be contacted if they want to use the image, some make it clear that it's theirs only. I don't really know the standard for blogs and I will let you know if I find something :)

Great article, thank you for mentioning us in your blog post.


Thank you too for the educational post about copyright :)

The unintentional plagiarism can be a b$tch


I agree. But it's something forgiveable I suppose as compared to intentional ones that are downright stealing.


Yh, because you have no idea you've done anything wrong but those watching would label you a thief. It makes it much worse because you alone know you didn't know. Lol


We just have to learn and be careful especially anything we write here cannot be editer after 7 days.

I’ve just been using been using my own images since being on Steemit as I was always worried about how to properly reference an image taken forom elsewhere and didn’t want to do the wrong thing. Thanks for pointing it out. Learning something new everyday


You're welcome @supernovastaffy. You can use CC0 or public domain images. I think the topic on using online images has to go on a different post as I have only touched on it a bit. I focused more about plagiarism in general.

You can check out sites such as Pixabay or Pexels, these are just the popular ones. These are free to use and just cite the source under the image. You can also check on images if they require attribution. If it's not clearly stated and you're not sure, better search for something else.