Avoiding Plagiarism and Citing Sources

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Students will be able to define plagiarism, recognize examples of plagiarism and paraphrasing and apply while developing references using an internet citation generator.

Big Idea

A little bit of planning and thinking can help you avoid plagiarism.

Note To Teachers

Due to the ubiquitous nature of the internet in our lives, students tend to believe that they already know how everything there is to know about performing searches online. However, when asked to perform a search of information on an unfamiliar topic, they tend to become overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available to them and have a difficult time distinguishing from reliable and unreliable sources. 

Learning to search effectively and efficiently is a skill weaved throughout the ELA Common Core standards, and specifically addressed in the Anchor Standards for College and Career Readiness for Writing, including:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

I use the three lessons in this unit to teach the strategies explicitly, and the skills are evaluated every time my students use the internet for research.


5 minutes

To start the class, I ask the question "What is plagiarism?" After a couple of answers, I tell the students we will watch a quick video called "What is Plagiarism in the Digital Age? from Boston University.


I tell them that as we watch, I want them to raise their hands if/when they would like me to stop to discuss an idea mentioned, a question and/or have a response to the BU students. 

Students are expected to use talking moves during the discussion. These talking moves provide a framework to up the rigor and move the discussion along in a respectful manner. In this video, you can see the guided discussion using the sentence frames as they respond to some of these questions:

  • Is plagiarism a problem at AdVENTURE?
  • What makes it easy to plagiarize using modern technology?
  • Why would Wikipedia be or not be a credible source?

I sometimes use this way of presenting a video so that students don't watch it like when they passively watch a TV show.

I want them to be actively looking for interesting discussion points. 

Once we have discussed the video, I share that the purpose of today's lesson is to be able to create a list of appropriate sources, as well as identify and avoid plagiarism. This is a big part of teaching students how to do research papers, and will be revisited often during the year as the students develop their projects. 


40 minutes

I start the presentation:

Slide 4: I ask, "Why do you think I suggest that you share your resource list with your teammates?"

Slide 7: We read the passage together, and I hand out the avoiding plagiarism worksheet. I hand out highlighters (because everything is so much better with highlighters), and have student pairs highlight the words and phrases that appear in both the original and sample 1. Make sure students do not highlight the original, as they will need it for sample two. Once they are done, I continue.

Slide 8: I ask them to share the things they highlighted and display this slide. After highlighting, it is quite clear that this passage has not actually been paraphrased. I explain that this is an example of patch-writing (the author of the sample has only changed a few words), and that patch-writing is actually plagiarism. Usually my students are quite surprised to learn this. I tell them that if they were to do this, even if they changed some of the words, they would need to identify the whole paragraph as a direct quote. After we have talked about it, I have the students ACE their answer to the question, "Is it paraphrased or plagiarized?" and have the students follow the highlighting process for sample 2.

Slide 9: After the students have highlighted sample 2 and they share the markings, I display this slide (which contains a paraphrased paragraph), and we discuss how some words (particularly nouns, dates and specific data) have to stay the same, but since the ideas are expressed in the author's own words it is an acceptable paraphrase. The original would need to be included in their reference list, but it does not require a direct quote. Once again, after the discussion, I ask the students to complete the corresponding question. Their work (work 1work 2work 3) shows whether they are ready to move to doing this on their own, or if they might need some more support.

Note to teacher: When I 'm questioning students I like for them think about how to tackle a task. There is never just one way to do things, and my way is most certainly not the best. In this video you can see how these type of questioning takes place as we continue the conversation.

Slide 10: The students work with a partner on the other example included in their worksheet. I tell the students that as they work on the second example, I expect the conversation to include sentences such as, "I don't think we should highlight that phrase because _____." and "What about this phrase? It appears in the original, but it is a specific date, so it is not plagiarism." This conversation is then transferred to their papers as they ACE their answers (123). After about 10 minutes I reconvene the students and ask for volunteers to share their thoughts on samples 3 and 4. 

Slides 11-14: I present these slides, while showing the students how to navigate to Easybib, and how/where to find the information that should be included in their reference lists. Since they already have CITE-IT scores from the previous lesson, I have them use those to practice creating a reference list.

Although I know that when they leave my class, students will not need to include my form of annotated references on their papers, I have them do it throughout the year so that they get into the habit of always evaluating their sources and creating a thorough reference list/bibliography. This skill is specifically addressed on CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8, and will help them as they tackle the more rigorous academic work at higher grades.


5 minutes

To grab the attention of the class before bringing the lesson to a close I use a call and response. After I have their attention, I ask students to write down two truths and one lie about plagiarism and/or citing sources. They then switch with a table mate and the partner must circle the lie, write his/her name on the paper, make sure the original author's name is also on the paper and turn it in.

I don't go over each one of this deliverables in detail. I glance through them just to make sure that all students understood the lesson.