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Plagiarism: A Student Guide: A Classroom Workshop

Can you define...

Can you define....


Copyright refers to a person (or organization's) right to reproduce and/or redistribute copies of original works. In the U.S., you don't have to apply for a copyright. It simply exists for any work that has been published (including those snippets you publish on the internet everyday when you visit FaceBook!).


Simply put, we know that paraphrasing is the act of putting ideas into our "own words." Too often, however, writers take liberties by simply swapping and rearranging words a bit.  A true paraphrase will reflect both the original author's efforts and your understanding of what the author had to say.


Quotes are used when the original author's wording is essential to understanding and are recognizable by the "quotation marks" that remind them.  We sometimes refer to quotes as "direct quotes," though the distinction is unnecessary, as ALL quotes should be exact duplicates of the original.  Quotes should, generally, comprise no more than 20% of your own work.

common knowledge?

Considered to be information commonly known or understood, what IS common knowledge is different for each of us. Ask yourself this: Would the average person of my own level of education or expertise know this? If you have special training in a certain area, chances are you have more common knowledge in that area than many other people. But be careful. Hearing it on television or reading about it doesn't lend you the right to call yourself an expert!


Citation is a three-fold process.  First, it includes creating a "works cited" or "bibliography" that will allow our readers to personally explore or examine our sources. Also, good citation practices demand that we include in-text references (parenthetical) to the resources whenever we are quoting or paraphrasing the ideas of others. Finally, the best writers also make direct textual reference to the expertise of others, using paraphrase indicators to provide verbal cues to authorship.

Nothing new...

Plagiarism is nothing new.  Still, before we had computers, the plagarist always demonstrated a deliberate purpose in his act.  Hand copying out information, word-for-word, required that he first find material in a library.  The lazy writer might purchase a paper, but this demanded connections and cash.  And with only a limited number of local students willing to sell their work, it was pretty common for instructors to come across the same paper, again and again, as they were recycled.

In an online and connected environment, plagiarism is easy...and sometimes even unintentional.  Cut-and-paste is painless, paper mills are everywhere (and tempting), and it is so easy to lose track of who said what.  

Let's face it... it takes more of an effort, in today's world, NOT to plagiarize.

So...who cares?

  • Your teachers, here at MG, are responsible for assessing your learning.  When you turn in a paper that is plagiarized, it does not reflect your level of understanding. Your teacher has no way of really knowing if you are ready to move on to new concepts. 
  • In colleges, teaching is just a part of what your professors do.  Most make their living, or at the very least, earn their teaching positions, through their research and their writings.  Plagiarists literally steal what these researchers work hard to create.
  • In the business world, employers often rely on the employee's integrity to protect their original ideas and products in the free marketplace.  An employee who would steal ideas from another writer could prove to be too big a risk for your employer.

Who owns it?

Is it stolen?

  • if you buy a paper paper mills or ghost writers
  • if you borrow a paper or recycle a friend's work
  • if you quote OR paraphrase without citing

Is it yours?

  • if it's common knowledge
  • if it's your opinion
  • if it's your reaction
  • if it's your analysis
  • if it's your personal anecdotes
  • if it's your proposed solutions  

You can review the Plagiarism Presentation from class on "recognizing and avoiding plagiarism" here.

Action Plan

An Action Plan for Avoiding Plagiarism


Simple habits can help you avoid unintential plagiarism.  

Know who wrote what!

Take careful notes that track not only the ideas others have, but also those "aha" moments you have that represent true, original thinking!

Get to KNOW the author!

Many authors are well known for their work in a specific area.  Do a bit of background research to identify the author's area of expertise and significant contributions to their field of study. 

Keep quotes short and precise.

While it's common to discover that the original author has found the "perfect" words for conveying an idea, if you find you need to quote large tracks, perhaps you don't fully understand the concepts being presented.  Read again and try to paraphrase.

Use paraphrase indicators!  

Even when in-text citation are used, paraphrase indicators clearly attribute ideas to the author.  Your reader will know exactly where those ideas begin (with the indicator) and end (with the citation).  Added bonus...the experts you refer to will lend their credibility to your text!

Apply the read aloud test!

Wonder if you've adequately credited another author?  Read it aloud.  Would an audience listening know that the unique ideas are not your own?  Would they recognize where your own ideas interact with those of another?  

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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