Skip to Main Content

Multiple Literacies & Web 2.0

ShaZam! Multiple Literacies in the 21st Century School Library

More on Plagiarism

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
  • to use (another's production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.

But can words and ideas really be stolen?

According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property, and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file).

All of the following are considered plagiarism:

  • turning in someone else's work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on "fair use" rules)

Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided, however, by citing sources. Simply acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed, and providing your audience with the information necessary to find that source, is usually enough to prevent plagiarism. See our section on citationfor more information on how to cite sources properly.

From Center

Discouraging Plagiarism - Advice for Teachers

The best strategy for discouraging student plagiarism is effective assignment design.

The information landscape has changed and areas of ethics are fuzzier than ever. Our students may not have a clear understanding of what constitutes plagiarism. In addition to traditional paper projects, students face new issues when they produce multimedia.  Issues get even thornier when students publish their work on the Web.

Here are some additional strategies instructors can use to discourage plagiarism and promote higher quality research:

o  Do not assign topical research!  (“Do a report on California.”)  Ask students to compare, analyze, invent, propose, etc.

o  Encourage inquiry-driven research.  Have students pose thoughtful questions based on their preliminary reading

o  Emphasize both writing and research as processes

o  Require in-process assessments.  Ask students to submit preliminary thesis statements, drafts of bibliographies, and outlines and organizers at                various points in the process to avoid research catastrophes, as well as plagiarism.  Your librarian can help with these assessments.

o  Build peer and instructor reactions into formative assessments

o  Conference with students at key points in the process

o  Require students to journal about their experience with the research and writing processes

o  Require students to submit all drafts and outlines along with the final project

o  Require students to incorporate specific, appropriate, high-quality resources of varying types in the project. (For example, “Use two primary sources from Gale’s Student Resource Center, or for higher level high school students, use one “scholarly journal.”)

o  Create an assignment-specific rubric that would not highly value a generic, or recycled paper

o  Require students to attach a formal reflection piece, describing the research process, to their final project.  Ask them to highlight what worked well, what were the greatest challenges, how they would change the process next time.

o  Ask students to submit first pages (or entire documents) for any Web sites or sources not easily accessed through the library

o  Require an annotated bibliography.  To simplify, you might ask students to annotate by noting the author’s credentials and why the source was of particular value.  Consider asking students to answer four questions in their bibliographies:

    o  How (How did you find this information? Which database or search tool did you use?)

    o  Who (Who is the author and why should you trust him/her?)

    o  Why was this document or media created?

    o  How does this document/media answer my research question or help me make my case? orWhy is this particular document truly relevant to your thesis/research?

Avoid Plagiarism

What is Plagiarism: 

Plagiarism is defined as...

"the act of copying, stealing, or representing the ideas or words
of another as one's own, without giving credit to the source."

 Did you know that credit must be given to borrowed images, music and videos as well - anything that is not yours? Yes, that includes YouTube 


There are several different types of plagiarism; these include:

  • Paraphrasing the words of another withoud documenting the source
  • Summarizing the words of another without documenting the source
  • Blatantly "cutting and pasting" information from the Internet or copying words verbatim from a print source and inserting them into your research paper.
  • Turning in another student's paper as your own.
  • Purchasing and turning in a canned research paper

If you plagiarize here at Squalicum:

  • You are failing to uphold your pledge of Academic Integrity
  • Doing something that is unethical
  • Cheating yourself of the opportunity to learn and to apply the skills necessary to do well in your career
  • Missing the opportunity to practice and hone your research and writing

Consequences of Plagiarism:

In colleges and universities, student handbooks state that all forms of academic dishonesty "are subject to appropriate disciplinary action, which may result in a reduction of grade, failure in the course, suspension, or expulsion." This means you do not earn your degree & you don't get your tuition back!

At Squalicum, you can not only earn an "F", but you most likely will have to completely re-do your paper. 

FYI:  Think twice before committing plagiarism. Teachers at Squalicum useTURNITIN - a software program that is designed to detect plagiarism.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

To avoid committing plagiarism, cite all of your sources properly according to the rules of the specific citation styles your teachers require.  We use

  • MLA


Guiding Students from Cheating & Plagiarism to Honesty & Integrity

Summarizing, Paraphrasing & Quoting

Plagiarism vs. Documentation

Plagiarism is the act of presenting someone else's work as your own. It is the theft of intellectual property. The following examples should help you distinguish plagiarism from well-documented research.

Original text from:

McCullough, David. John Adams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. p. 57

His marriage to Abigail Smith was the most important decision of John Adams's life, as would become apparent with time. She was in all respects his equal and the part she was to play would be greater than he could possibly have imagined, for all his love for her and what appreciation he already had of her beneficial, steadying influence.

Writing sample #1

John Adam’s marriage to Abigail was the most important choice in his life. He was to come to understand this better with time. In so many ways, she was his equal, and he could not have imagined the importance of the role she was going to play, despite his love for her and his appreciation of her good, solid influence.

Unacceptable! This paragraph is the work of someone either deliberately plagiarizing or someone who doesn’t understand what it means to plagiarize. The writer may have changed a few words and switched the order of words in the sentences, but the writer has not changed McCullough’s sequence of ideas and has not used the information in a meaningful way. He or she failed to cite what are really McCullough’s original ideas or words.

Writing sample #2

When John Adams was ready to marry, he sought a woman who was his equal. He found Abigail Smith and loved her for her steadying influence.

Unacceptable! Not only did this student neglect to cite, this paraphrase twists McCullough’s meaning. Though it changes words significantly, it also does a poor job conveying the original idea accurately.

Writing sample #3

The best decisions of a great leader may extend beyond the political. In fact, the course of American history may have been changed by an entirely personal decision. In his biography of Adams, David McCullough notes that Adams’ choice of Abigail Smith as a wife was the most critical decision of his life. “She was in all respects his equal and the part she was to play would be greater than he could possibly have imagined” (McCullough 57).

This is acceptable because the author uses the information in a meaningful way, accurately paraphrases the ideas presented in the original source, credits them and weaves in a quote to emphasize the point. The source is properly quoted and cited using quotation marks and in-text documentation. Note that in this example the student created his/her own topic sentence, following an independent plan and not the necessarily following the structure of another author's material.

You can avoid plagiarism.
  • When you are taking notes, make sure that you copy all original passages in quotation marks.
  • Paraphrase by really putting ideas into your own words; go beyond changing a few words. Recognize that paraphrasing of unique ideas and facts also requires citation.
  • As you write, return to the text and check your paraphrase against the original source to make sure you haven’t unintentionally copied.
  • Use graphic organizers to restructure your facts and ideas.
  • Use your own voice to put a new twist on old information.
  • When in doubt, cite!
What is Common Knowledge?
  • You don’t have to cite everything. Facts or ideas referred to as “common knowledge” do not have to be cited.
  • Common knowledge includes facts that are found in many sources, facts that you assume many people know. A rule of thumb is that if you find a fact in three or more sources, it may be considered common knowledge.
  • An example of common knowledge is that John Adams married Abigail Smith.
  • Remember, you must document little-know facts and any ideas that interpret facts, even if they are paraphrased! For instance, even if you don’t use McCullough’s words, you should absolutely document McCullough’s belief that this marriage may have been the most critical decision of Adam’s life.

Springfield Township High School

Owl Purdue University on Plagiarism

Information Ethics

Plagiarism from Common Craft

Explained by Common Craft
An introduction of the basics of plagiarism and how to avoid it, told via a story of a student completing an assignment

Noodle Tools: the Ethical Researcher

Creativity, Culture and the Common Good

No More Cat and Mouse - plagiarism and citation in context (.pdf)


 Information Literacy Process

Taking notes

Creating a bibliography


A Culture of Social Responsibility

Race to the Finish: The Challenges and Some Successes of Teaching Research (.pdf)

Template for a Plagiarism Policy

Beyond Acceptable Use: Ethical and Academic Use (.pdf)

Footer for USD LibGuide v2.0