Avoiding Plagiarism

Contributor: Elephango Editors. Lesson ID: 11709

Would you be upset if someone stole stuff from your backpack or copied your homework and claimed credit for it? That's what plagiarism is: stealing someone else's ideas and words as if they're yours!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Have you ever played a game of copycat?

Watch these friends play in the short video below.

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Copying and borrowing seem like innocent enough words, especially when playing a game with friends. But when you copy or borrow words while writing, it is considered plagiarism, a serious offense.

Learn strategies to avoid committing this writing crime!

no plagiarism

Writing a research paper is a lengthy process requiring much work and time.

  • Do you know what can instantly negate all that work?

Plagiarism, the most offensive of the offenses in the writing world!

Before getting too involved, if you need to view or review the previous Related Lessons from the introduction to the thesis in our Writing a Research Paper series, find them in the right-hand sidebar.

To start, plagiarism is defined as the following.

  • using someone else's ideas, words, or work without proper credit
  • passing off another's content as your own
  • copying and presenting existing content without permission
  • failing to cite sources properly
  • claiming originality for ideas or products derived from existing sources

The most important thing to know is that you MUST avoid it! It's not only frowned upon in the academic world; it's also illegal to plagiarize!

This is need-to-know information, so take notes while you read each of the articles and resources in this lesson.

Plagiarism comes at a high cost. Common consequences of plagiarism for students include a failing grade for the assignment, a failing grade for the class, expulsion from school, and even legal action.

You should be aware of a few different types of plagiarism.

Direct Plagiarism

Direct plagiarism is when you take someone else's words or thoughts without giving them any credit.

Mosaic Plagiarism

Mosaic plagiarism is when you take bits and pieces of someone else's thoughts, words, or phrases without giving them credit. Using the same writing structure, just changing some of the words, is also plagiarism.

It is considered plagiarism even if you do this unintentionally.

Self Plagiarism

  • Did you know you can even plagiarize yourself?

It's true. If you write a paper and years later use the same words, phrases, or ideas without citing it properly, it's plagiarism!

As you watch the video below, add the additional types of plagiarism reviewed to your growing list.

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  • Did anything on the list surprise you?
  • Which do you think is the easiest type to do accidentally?

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Now that you know what it is, you can learn how to avoid it. Here's how you can do that.

  1. Take good notes.

That means writing down where you got the information you're going to use so that you don't just assume they're your own thoughts, and you can credit the actual source.

  1. Plan where and how you're going to use other's thoughts and ideas.

Again, this will help you to not take anyone else's thoughts as your own. If you like an idea, plan on how to use it:

  • Do you want to quote the person directly?
  • Do you want to summarize the thought and credit the author?
  • Or do you want to paraphrase (use your own words) to express the ideas?

Review how to do each.


Quoting is probably the easiest of the three methods, but you must use it sparingly. To quote someone's words, you have to introduce what they said or wrote and then put their words in quotation marks.

Read the following example.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote:

"I consider the government of the U S. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment, or free exercise, of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the U.S. Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. It must then rest with the states, as far as it can be in any human authority." (Jefferson, Thomas. "To Rev. Samuel Miller." 23 January, 1808)

Look at the same material as paraphrasing and summary.


Thomas Jefferson wrote that the U.S. Constitution prevented the federal government from interfering with religious establishments, beliefs, or practices. He felt that this was due to two facts: that the Constitution directly forbids it from making laws regarding religion and that it reserved the powers not delegated to the federal government to the states. (Jefferson, Thomas. "To Rev. Samuel Miller." 23 January, 1808)


Thomas Jefferson thought that the U.S. Constitution forbade the federal government from meddling in religious affairs and that if there was any authority over religious practices, it was the governments of the individual states. (Jefferson, Thomas. "To Rev. Samuel Miller." 23 January, 1808)

Look at those examples again and consider the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing.

  • Can you describe each one?


Besides summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting, writers must also use in-text citations (as you see above) to credit the source of the information.

Any time you summarize, paraphrase, or quote, it is necessary to cite the information. Follow these five guidelines to determine when to cite your information.

  1. When presenting a fact that is not common knowledge, always cite the source.
  2. When writing about an idea, make clear whose idea it is.
  3. When writing about someone else's ideas, cite the source.
  4. When using someone else's exact words, use quotation marks.
  5. When paraphrasing or summarizing, use different wording and cite the source.

That's pretty easy.

The Golden Rule for avoiding plagiarism is, "Give credit where credit is due!"

Apply this rule in the Got It? section as you take quizzes and analyze notes to detect plagiarism.

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