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Plagiarism - and how to avoid it

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using other people's words or ideas in your own work - without making it clear to the reader/teacher that the words or ideas have been copied. If you find some information in a book or on the internet and use it your own writing, you must state the source. If you do not, then you have plagiarized.

What is wrong with plagiarism?

Plagiarism is a kind of cheating or theft. Like all offenses, some kinds of plagiarism are more serious than others. The student who copies one or two short phrases from another writer without referencing them is guilty of laziness or forgetfulness, or both. Compare him, however, with the student who downloads a complete essay answer from the internet and turns it in as his own work. He has committed a far more serious act of plagiarism, and in many academic institutions would be expelled.

How do teachers know that students have plagiarized?

Teachers can usually tell very quickly if a student has plagiarized, especially the ESL student whose writing contains language of unusually high quality: perfect accuracy, rare vocabulary, complex sentence structure, etc. There are also websites that teachers can use to investigate students suspected of plagiarizing whole essays or parts of them.

How can plagiarism be avoided?

Having understood what plagiarism is, it is now important to learn how it can be avoided:

Information to teachers of ESL students about plagiarism.


Frankfurt International School: Art and artists. (Click to see at full size.)