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Searching online for an original source

While we’re on the subject of web searches

Sometimes I need to find the original source of a quote or news story (for example, that has been used without attribution or simply plagiarized by a blog). I’ve found that the easiest way is to use a randomly selected phrase from the source in hand that is long enough to be unique.

So for example, if I found this quote somewhere online without attribution (or if the attribution was a blog that referenced another blog and so on):

Lt. Brett Parson, who heads the D.C. police special liaison unit, said “Just like in heterosexual domestic cases, most of the abuse that occurs (in the case of gay couples) is punching, kicks, slaps, pushing or even threats. And people don’t think that is abuse, but it is.”

…then the following Google search (including the quotation marks)…

“punching, kicks, slaps, pushing or even threats”

… would reveal the original source was the Washington Post (though note that I’d have to click Google’s ‘repeat the search with omitted results included’ in order to see the original WashPost link).

Note also that I did not include parts of more than one sentence, or the parenthetical phrase “(in the case of gay couples)” in my search, because editing by the downstream source might have made changes that would foul up such a search.

So to recap: search, using quotation marks, for a phrase within a single sentence that is just long enough to be unique.

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