Back in 2011, we took a look at various writing techniques that can be used to deter or discourage plagiarists.
For the most part, the techniques were straightforward and involved making the work more difficult to plagiarize or less appealing for someone to try and lift.
But while the words on the screen are definitely important to reducing plagiarism, if having your work misused is a serious concern, the time to think about how to reduce plagiarism is before putting the first words down, while you’re still developing the idea and topics you want to write about.
Simply put, some topics are more likely to be plagiarized than others. However, if you choose your topics well, you can not only avoid having your work ripped off, but you can create unique, original and informative work that will remain unique for a long time to come.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you choose topics that will help you keep the plagiarists and other infringers at bay.
Tip 1: Avoid Spam-Friendly Topics
This should seem obvious enough, but is something that’s often forgotten.
Much of the plagiarism, copyright infringement and content misuse seen by authors is from automated bots using content to create spam sites. However, spammers have a variety of topics that they tend to favor and, to get an idea, you need look no further than your email’s spam folder.
Financial services, pharmaceuticals, employment services, pornography and similar spam-friendly topics should be avoided if possible.
While these are all potentially important and legitimate topics to write about, the deluge of spammers in these markets creates a demand for content that is often met by plagiarizing or scraping the works of others.
If you write in these fields, your work will almost certainly be more heavily plagiarized than other topics.
Tip 2: Write Specific, Pointed Articles
While it’s tempting to write broad articles that can be used and enjoyed by almost anyone, the problem is that they are often just as useful to other sites as they are to yours.
For example, a banking blogger may be tempted to write a general article about how checks are processed. However, such an article could be useful on just about any finance-oriented site, including those run by plagiarists and spammers. Instead, a more pointed article about how checks are processed at that specific bank, including details not relevant to other institutions, has much less value to a plagiarist.
However, this is an idea that can be applied to almost any kind of topic. For example, a blog post summarizing the book Jane Eyre is more easily plagiarized than a blog post comparing the book to another obscure work or even a completely different type of work, such as a song or movie.
Plagiarists, generally, want broad content that they can drop in with little rewriting or effort. The more pointed a piece is, the less likely it’s going to be ideal for the plagiarist and less likely to be used. However, since the content will be unique, it still has a chance to find an audience online, including with those researching the more broad topics.
In short, before writing a piece ask yourself a simple question: “Would this piece be just as useful to any other site on the Web, or is it most useful to my site?”
Tip 3: Topics with Visuals
Finally, if you can choose a topic that gives you a chance to introduce your own visuals, you have an opportunity to further discourage plagiarism by watermarking those images with your name, your logo or your URL.
One of the drawbacks of text is that attribution can be easily separated from the work. It’s as simple as not giving a link back and removing any links in the article itself. However, with images, the process gets much more complicated.
Plagiarists, typically, are looking for something quick and easy to take. They don’t want to spend time editing a work, removing watermarks, etc.
This pushes the plagiarist to make one of three choices. The first is remove the visual elements, which can more or less make the work useless. The second is to remove the watermark, which is time-consuming and likely wasteful as other works can probably be found trivially. Finally, they can leave the attribution intact, which would still make it an infringement, but at least not a plagiarism.
Creating works with visual components such as charts, examples, etc. make it more difficult to plagiarize a work while, at the same time, it actually makes the work more appealing to the public.
To be clear, none of this is going to eliminate the risk of plagiarism in a work. It’s still important to check to see if a work is being misused and to deal with any infringements that may arise.
However, taking the time to pick topics that don’t meet the needs of a plagiarist can definitely help reduce the amount of plagiarism you see and the amount of time spent dealing with such issues.
The key, however, is to balance the needs to have plagiarism-resistant topics with the needs to write on subjects that are interesting and useful to your audience. The most plagiarism-proof topic is useless if no one wishes to read it.
Still, sometimes the tweaks that reduce plagiarism might actually improve the work’s usefulness to the public, creating a win-win that keeps your work safe and your audience informed and entertained.