Plagiarism is the use of another person's words or writing without acknowledging the original source. Obvious, apparently deliberate plagiarism, as defined on this page, poses a threat to Muppet Wiki's value and reputation, and is a violation of Muppet Wiki policy.
A contributor who posts plagiarized text and doesn't fix the problem as soon as possible will get a one-week block from editing the wiki for each article page affected, at the discretion of the Muppet Wiki administrators.
The only exception to this policy is for a brand new contributor who may not understand how collaborative writing works; a first-time violation by a new contributor will get a message with an explanation of the policy.
Definition of plagiarism
Plagiarism is difficult to define in a project like this, where most of the information that we're posting is from books, websites and other secondary source materials. The best way to define plagiarism may be to use the famous quote from a Supreme Court ruling on pornography: "I know it when I see it."
The essential standard is: If it's obvious to a reader that your text is copied from another source, then it can be considered plagiarism. Copy-and-pasting text from a website into Muppet Wiki is a bad idea, even if you change some words here and there. This also applies to books and magazines, especially important reference texts like Jim Henson: The Biography, Street Gang, Imagination Illustrated, The Muppets Character Encyclopedia and Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street.
Any text copied from source material must be presented as a quote. There should be quotation marks around the copied text, and the source of the text should be made clear, either in the article, in a footnote, or both.
It's acceptable to paraphrase a text source, expressing the same meaning in your own words. However, a paraphrase must also cite the source text, either in the article, in a footnote, or both. Simple substitutions like changing the tense of a sentence, including only part of the source text, or swapping out one adjective for another, is not a paraphrase.
Why plagiarism is bad
When plagiarized text is posted on Muppet Wiki, it has an impact on the wiki's reputation, as well as the reputation of the contributor who posted it.
There are good reasons why a reader might be skeptical of the information on Muppet Wiki. This project carries the double stigma of "fan website" and "free-for-all wiki," and new readers want to know whether this information is reliable or not. If they find text on the wiki that they recognize from another source, then they'll take that as evidence that the whole wiki is shady and untrustworthy.
We're also proud to see that our research has been used as source material for official histories of Jim Henson, the Muppets and Sesame Street. The people who write those books and websites read Muppet Wiki. If they see their own words being plagiarized, it's embarrassing and painful for everyone involved.
Your reputation as a contributor is also important. If you're taking the time to add to the wiki, then you'd obviously like your contributions to "stick" as much as possible. If you have a shady reputation, then that affects how other people view your contributions, and it may make your additions less sticky.
How to avoid plagiarism
- Facts are free. Specific wording isn't. Nobody owns a fact. Adding facts that can be found in other places is fine; almost all of the information on the wiki is from secondary sources. However, you cross the line into plagiarism when you copy the specific words and sentences from the original source.
- Show your sources. Other readers should be able to verify the information that you post. If it's not obvious where the information comes from, then say where you got it from. Give sources for quotes. If you find information in a book or on a website, tell us the title or the URL. If it's clumsy to put that information in the article, then add a "References" heading at the bottom of the page. Behind the scenes information is especially important to source; we don't want to spread rumors.
- Long quotes are okay. If there's a passage in a book or on a website that provides useful information about the subject of an article, go ahead and quote the whole passage. Put quotation marks around it, and provide a link to the source.
- Err on the side of showing your sources. Don't worry if showing your sources makes the page looks messy. It's more important to show the source than to make a polished looking page. You can always edit the page later to smooth out the transitions, or somebody else can.