The Problem of ‘Lack of Originality’ in Fact-Providing Articles

and how to avoid it yourself



Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash | This photo has been used to represent writing

Have you come across an interesting article on a unique and uncommon historical event or natural phenomenon? The writer writes impeccably, and you are hooked. But look closely at that article. If you remove the flowery language, could you find the same content on another website / other websites? Basically, is there any original content in that article? If the answer is no, then the article is not written, it is only compiled and paraphrased.

There are uncountable articles like that on Medium. They are compiled with research done on the Internet, ranging from paltry to well done. Then that research is copy-pasted. Finally, the writer paraphrases that in an eloquent and fancy manner. They are full of informative facts and histories; however, they have little to zero original content.

If a writer has cited sources properly, compiled-and-paraphrased articles are not illegal. But there are three reasons why writers should avoid writing them:

  1. Such articles undermine the efforts of writers who have worked hard and put their time and energy to create original content. Even a few lines of poetry sometimes take poets hours to write.
  2. They reduce academic and professional credibility. Reputed newspapers like the New York Times and Guardian and even Medium-owned publications like ZORA and GEN usually don’t publish such pieces.
  3. They often have fewer claps and responses. I spent a few hours browsing through articles and closely observing such fact-providing, completely compiled, and paraphrased ones. Most of these articles had less than 200 claps and barely any responses. This is because these articles just inform the reader with already published facts. They do not enlighten the reader with fresh opinions on the topic.

Think twice. Have you created such an article yourself? I must admit. I too have written (oops, compiled, and paraphrased) articles like these. But I stopped doing that after thinking about the above reasons, especially reasons 1 and 2.

Most writers compile and paraphrase to quickly mint out articles every day and earn more money/claps/followers. Even I used to think the same way. However, I soon realised that quality is always better than quantity. Writers who create such articles aren’t bad. They have great writing skills, which could be better utilised to create articles with more original content.

So, how do we create fact-providing articles that have an average amount of original content and avoid the ‘lack of originality’ tag? Before you publish any posts, gauge them with the following two questions:

1. Does my article answer a question?

Here’s a tip — before you start drafting an article, always form a question in your mind. Instead of writing about a topic, try to answer that question in your article. Also, find out whether the question has been answered before. If not, start writing! And if yes, then add your opinion or thoughts into the answer.

This is because questions inspire originality. Let’s take a topic and two questions:

  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • In which ways is the COVID-19 pandemic similar to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918?

Which one of them has more potential to write something original on? In my view, it’s the question. Writing on topics tends to lean towards objective articles. Writing to answer a question tends to lean towards subjective, original, and opinion-oriented articles.

I started drafting my article titled ‘Why the UN Security Council is Fundamentally Flawed’ with a question. Then, I interlinked it with the history of the UN Security Council, previous opinions on the topic, and wrapped it up with my view.

However, it isn’t a hard and fast rule that you should only begin with a question. You can begin with a topic as well, however, your article should attempt at answering a question at the end. If your article doesn’t answer a question, you can create a question based on your research!

2. Does my article have more than 15% of original content?

To calculate the percentage of originality in my articles, I use Duplichecker’s word counter tool and a pen and a piece of paper or a calculator. Plagiarism checkers often aren’t that great in catching compiled and paraphrased content; hence I devised this parameter. Here’s how to do it:

  • Use the tool to count the number of words of whatever you think is original content.
  • Then, multiply the number with 100.
  • Divide the new number with the total number of words in your entire article
Use this formula to calculate percentage of originality | Image by Author | Created Using MS Word

If the result is more than 15%, fantastic job!

Why 15%? Why not more? Why not less? I calculated the percentage of originality in 4 fact-based articles each from GEN, OneZero, the Guardian, the New York Times, and the Hindustan Times. All the chosen articles had opinions at the end and answered a question. The average was 15%, and hence I selected this number.

If your score is less than 15%, and you are writing about a historical event, you could mention how you think it impacted the modern world or the world at that time. You could also draw parallels between now and then too.

An example of this is an article that I wrote about the mathematician Nicolas Bourbaki. The first part of the article was all about the history of the mathematician (which I had compiled and paraphrased) and the second part was about what I inferred from my research. And the percentage of originality came out to be around 22%.

Keep reading and researching until you hit the 15% mark. If you are unable to reach 15% even after a few tries, do not worry and do not scrap the article. Maintain it as a draft and whenever you find new insights or get inspired, start typing again!

I have decided to follow these guidelines for my future articles. What about you?




Sunset Warrior; Harbinger of Doom. 9th grade student who calls India her home. I write and write about Politics, Economics, History, Literature, and Cinema :)