What do you mean this is Plagiarism? Examples

Jeanne d’Arc Par P.A. Le Brun de Charmettes (Orléanide-1817)

I am in the middle of a workshop with a class on the subject of plagiarism and the research process. Yesterday we had a lively discussion about what constitutes plagiarism. When I told them that inadequate paraphrasing, when you simply change a few words and the sentence structure of the original source, is considered plagiarism, they didn’t believe me.

Seriously, they fought me the whole way.

“How can we write anything, then?”

“Are we supposed to cite everything?”

“This is making me angry. I don’t even know how I am going to do my research now.”

I don’t think this reaction is uncommon. In fact, I remember doing projects when I was in school and being acutely aware of the rule (I honestly don’t remember where I got this idea) that there was an actual amount of words that you needed to change in order not to plagiarize. I spent a lot of time trying to find synonyms instead of trying to understand the information, so I know where they are coming from.

Luckily, I am following up with some work on how to avoid plagiarism (an embargo on the copy and paste would be a good start…) but in the meantime, I feel like I need back up. Although I thought I gave them a good example, I feel like I need some proof that  this kind of patchwork writing is not acceptable. Here is the example I gave to them:

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I thought it was pretty clear, but what do I know?

Just in case you find yourself in the position where you have to convince incredulous students that just because they changed the sentence structure around and used the word “battle” instead of “warfare” does not mean that this is their own idea or even their own words, here are some links from some big universities that give examples of mosaic plagiarism:

Harvard University examples

Purdue University Calumet

Claremont Graduate University

Bates College (if you scroll over the example the plagiarized parts will be highlighted!)

Cuny (they use the same passage as Bates…)

Okay. Now I feel like I just put on my librarian armour and am now ready to do battle with the disbelievers. First step: Get them to recognize that the way they are doing research leads to this kind of plagiarism. Next step: Show them effective research and note-taking strategies to avoid it (and in the meantime learn more).




A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words: PLAGIARISM INFOGRAPHICS

I received an email last night from a teacher who is worried not only about the frequent cases of plagiarism in her classes but at the fact that the students don’t seem to understand they have done anything wrong.

I agree. This is an issue. Although I have spoken to the grade 7 and 8s about Plagiarism it most definitely is not enough. The students should be reminded of what exactly constitutes plagiarism, and tips on how to avoid it whenever they receive an assignment that requires research.

I did a quick search and found some amazing infographics to help teachers get the point across. I will being with my very first (and rudimentary) one called You are a Plagiairist If:

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But, I admit, the design leaves much to be desired. Here are some more professional-looking and fun visuals about plagiarism.

This is my favourite. Clear, concise, simple:


This one is fun, but takes a bit of looking at. I would introduce it and take a part of a class to talk about it. Then I would post it where you can point to it anytime you have a research assignment.plagiarism+infographic+2+copy


Umm, this one is a little dramatic, but it gets the point across…


The following needs to be accompanies by the website where I found kit, the WriteCheck blog. They take a study that used over 900 teachers in secondary and post-secondary to define the types of plagiarism and then gave these types social media names to show what role the internet plays in plagiarism. It is well done and offers an easy way to talk to students about it. Although I recommend checking out the website, here is the very large infographic:


I would also like to mention how I like these infographics as the sources are included right in the mirage. Saves time, don’t you think? You could also use the resources Madame Prof de Français showed us in today’s workshop and make your own:

I made my infographic using Easel.ly







The Plagiarism Plague: A presentation using NearPod

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 12.37.15 PMYesterday I gave a presentation to the Grade 7s about plagiarism. It was meant as an introduction – what exactly is Plagiarism? What are the consequences? What is the best way to avoid accidental plagiarism?

I focused on talking about  the different ways you can accidentally plagiarize and suggested that summarizing or paraphrasing the information instead of copy and pasting it into their projects would go a long way in avoiding cheating. Once again, I want to repeat: this was meant only as an introduction! There are so many other things I want to tell them (how to evaluate a source, how to cite your sources, etc) but at least this is a good start.

I used this opportunity to try out Nearpod, an app that claims to be an” all in one mobile solution for teachers” and which I reviewed recently.

Although near pod allows you to create slides in the app itself, they only give you one template. But they do allow you to import slides from power points, PDFs, image files. So first of all, I made a simple powerpoint presentation and then uploaded these to Nearpod.


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LESSON LEARNED: I spent a lot of time deleting and re-importing my powerpoint slides. Either I found a mistake, decided I wanted to add a slide, changed my mind about layout. Every time one of the slides changed, I had to delete the previous slides and re-import the new ones. Each slide has to be deleted individually and sometimes the Nearpod site was very slow so this was very time-consuming.

BEST PRACTICE: I would suggest mapping out your presentation before even uploading to Nearpod. Make sure your slides are the best they can be, has everything on them, etc, before uploading.

Why not just use a powerpoint presentation you ask? Well, it is because of the interactive nature of Nearpod. When the students join your session, they see your presentation and you control their screens, in that they can’t rush ahead. When you swipe to another slide, the presentations on their iPad changes too. I wanted to try out this interactive feature- give them formative assessments, try out the drawing tool.

But I get ahead of myself…

Once the students join the session (You see the session code at the top left corner of the screenshots) they are asked to identify themselves:

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When I asked them if they knew what Plagiarism is, I was surprised by how many students had no idea what it was. In the future, I would put my definition slide before I gave the following quiz:

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I asked them a series of 9 questions, all true or false. It is plagiarism…

  1. If you copy a few sentences without adding quotation marks
  2. If you copy a few sentences without citing your source
  3. If you take someone else’s ideas without citing where you took the ideas from
  4. If you copy and paste information into a project
  5. If you write you opinion about someone else’s ideas
  6. If you copy someone else’s homework
  7. If you change a few words from text you copy and pasted
  8. You download an image licensed under the creative commons
  9. You do not cite your source for the image you downloaded

Here is what I saw on my screen as the students submitted their answers:

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As you can see, very few students got them all right. Confusion about whether or not changing a few words in a text was plagiarism or not abounded.


  1. In a stubborn old school moment, I was still projecting this presentation, even though all the students could see it on their screens. If I had to do it again, I would not project my screen, as everyone could see the results of the other students. It didn’t matter so much in this context, but one of the great aspects of this kind of guerrilla formative assessment is that the students can answer honestly and discreetly.
  2. I would take some time to discuss every question before they move not o the next. The results were coming in very quickly and because my screen doesn’t give me the actual questions, I ended up not being able to understand the results on the spot. I would have gone slower in this part and talked about every question.


  • Only project when necessary- remember the kids have it on their screens!
  • Get to know the software a little bit – how the quiz results look before actually using it in class. I only tried it out with one other person, which doesn’t give you the experience of having to dissect the answers of a whole class.

I am not going to show all my slides because, well, that would be boring, but here is an infographic I made last year about what makes you a plagiarist:

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Once we talked about what kinds of behaviours constituted plagiarism, I gave them an activity. We read a text about the Tasmanian Devil. Once we were finished reading it carefully (I read it aloud and the kids could follow along) I asked them to draw a mind map with the information they could remember of the text. This was a way for them to get some distance from the actual text and start thinking about it in their own words.



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The students used the “Draw it” function of Nearpod and submitted their mind maps:

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BEST PRACTICE: This worked very well, though the Draw it function is limiting and a little hard to use. But their mind maps didn’t need to be perfect for this experiment – it was only to give them an idea of how you construct one. For the purposes of this presentation it worked really well. The students also liked seeing their mind maps being shared with the group.

We looked at the information on the Tasmanian devil again. This time I asked them to write a summary of the information in their own words, once again without having the text in front of their faces:

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We shared a few answers with the group- and lo and behold, they sounded very different from the original text!

We then looked at other note-taking techniques: index cards, audio notes, columns, etc. We ended the workshop with the students pairing up and trying out the different methods of note-taking.

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Here are some screenshots of their work:

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BEST PRACTICE: I was very nervous that Nearpod wasn’t going to work, that the internet was going to be slow, that the software would crash, etc. so I made sure I had my slides loaded in my keynote on my iPad and that there was analogue solution for all the activities- I had a whole bunch of scrap paper at the ready just in case. I didn’t end up needing it, but it made me feel a lot better to have a Plan B, especially since the app crashed about two minutes before the presentation.

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All in all, I think it was a successful first attempt!