Determining Plagiarism in Literary Works

In order to prove plagiarism between two literary works, it is not enough to identify similarities in ideas, themes, subjects, places, periods, characters and plots. Since people have been writing fictional texts throughout history, it is now almost impossible to find ideas, themes, topics, plots, characters, etc. that no one has ever thought of. These are therefore not covered by copyright. Every text written by every author has similarities with other texts written by other authors before. This is the presupposition of contemporary literature. This similarity does not mean plagiarism. If we were to destroy newly written books because they were more or less similar to other texts written before, no new books would be published.

To prove plagiarism, all of the following elements must be demonstrated beyond dispute:

1. Syntax overlap.

The two texts contain the same sentences and paragraphs, or the same sentences and paragraphs with minor changes, but retaining the main skeleton (paraphrase).

This is the most important criterion for proving plagiarism. In order to detect syntactic similarities, advanced software for academic texts can be used. It is important to note that no matter which two texts you compare, similar sentences can be found to some extent; this does not constitute plagiarism, as some sentences can easily be written by any author. It is generally accepted that this similarity can be between 5-10 percent. If the similarity exceeds this, plagiarism may be suspected.

2. Literary context overlap.

The functioning of the world created in the two texts is the same.

Every novel creates a literary world; the functioning and mechanics of this world consists of many elements and can be objective, psychological, surrealist, fantastic, fairy-tale, magical realist, socialist, materialist, religious, tragic, melodramatic, etc. To be considered plagiarism, the literary context must be the same in both texts. Comprehensive textual analysis is necessary to determine this.

3. Overlap in literary style.

The language and textual organization of the two texts are the same.

No matter how "plain" and "transparent" the language, every author's writing has distinctive stylistic features and unique linguistic tics. In order to speak of plagiarism, these stylistic features and tics must be identical in both texts.

Each text presents a structure. While part of this structure is related to how the text appears on the page, an important part of it is related to how the constituent parts of the text are arranged and how they relate to each other. The temporal and spatial organization of the text is included in this structure. In order to speak of plagiarism, this structure must be seen exactly in both texts. Comprehensive textual analysis is necessary to detect plagiarism in language and text structure.

4. Overlap in the purpose of writing the text and its conclusion.

The purpose of writing and the conclusion of the two texts are the same.

In every text, one can identify at least one purpose for writing that text; this purpose may be the consideration of an argument about the world, society, people, relationships, or it may be the evaluation of one or more truth arguments; it may be based on literary or artistic arguments. Again, when each text is completed, it reaches some conclusions in line with this purpose; again, these are conclusions about the world, truth or art. In order to speak of plagiarism, the aims and conclusions must be the same in both texts. Comprehensive textual analysis is necessary to determine this.


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