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How to be original and avoid copying your sources directly

As an article writer I frequently need to research topics, read lots of other articles and then write my own based on what I've learned. A common problem when doing this is that it's easy to read someone else's work and then have a hard time "forgetting" what they wrote so I don't end up copying it. I want the facts but I don't want to plagiarize.

My preferred method, where possible, is to stick to writing about topics I'm already familiar with. I write my first draft from scratch without any research, based solely on my own understanding. This gives me a good base to work from, using my own words and flow, which is less likely to be influenced by reading how someone else has worded it. Once the draft is finished I begin my detailed research, checking facts and looking for things I've missed.

If I don't know enough to write a draft from scratch, I like to spend a couple of days researching as many sources as possible and recording the sources. I then wait some time before I begin my first draft. Again, the goal is to not be influenced by the wording or style of other authors, but rather to design my own unique article structure and wording.

Tip #1: Do not try to read other people's work and paraphrase it (i.e. re-wording what someone else has written in your own words). Not only is this basically copyright infringement, but it's difficult and it's a bad habit to develop. It just makes writing original material harder.

I always try to give appropriate attribution, although this can be difficult. For example, it often seems unnecessary to give credit when I'm using common, publicly available facts. Do I give credit to timeanddate.com just because I used them to get the name of a certain time zone? If I credited every single source it would become unmanageable, and frankly I don't think it's required. It can also be hard deciding who to credit when I get the same information from multiple sources. My answer is to use my best judgement. If I think the source deserves some recognition for something they had to research themselves, I give it. If I use multiple sources and none of them are more deserving than the others, I'll usually go for the most reputable (yes, I know that's very subjective). And often I cite a source simply because I'd like to give myself some credibility and let my audience see where my information comes from.

Tip #2: Develop a distinctive style of writing that is unique to you. I have a certain approach to writing articles — I use a system of beginning with ideas and topics I want to cover, then fleshing them out in a certain way (I can't really explain it — it's just my own work method). Depending on the particular audience, I use one of my own writing styles (chatty, technical, etc). In this way I've developed the habit of writing "from the heart" without worrying about how other authors might write the same thing.

Practice writing about topics you know. Just you and your keyboard — no Google, no books. Just concentrate on how you want to write. Hopefully, after a while you'll begin to do this automatically, even when you've seen other people's work.

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