Throughout secondary school and well into university, it was drilled into us not to copy other people’s work. However, we were also told to include quotation marks and references when copying another’s work. And then as time went on, we were told there are no new ideas, just ideas built on other ideas. So how and when do you reference that???
Building on someone else’s work can feel like stealing. Steal like an artist some say. Where is the line? Is there a line? Some days I see my own work in papers, posts, or powerpoints. Often there is some form of attribution, but other times not.
The older I get, I realise I can ensure no one copies me or builds on my ideas, but staying quiet. Going public is just that – it makes our ideas public. Whether it is through a paper, a post, presentation or even contributing in a meeting – we are going public. And once the idea or observation is said, it can be built on or ‘stolen’.
Also, the older I get, I realise attribution is relatively easy for the person building on or ‘stealing’ the idea. In fact, in many situations it improves the acceptability of your own work. And it usually is an encouragement to the other that someone is citing them. It validates their work.
Copying and passing off another’s idea as your own still feels wrong. But building on another’s work is the only way I know we can learn and grow.
So who’s work are you building on today?