Plagiarism – in my own words

“In your own words” 
“Cite your sources” 
“No, you can’t just copy and paste that entire website as your essay.” 

Things teachers say quite frequently when giving writing assignments. Well, hopefully not the last one, but we all know there are students who will try. 

Plagiarism can be a tricky beast to approach because it casts a wide net of what it’s considered to be. So we’re here to make it a little easier for you. 

Seems simple enough, but there are so many ways that a person can plagiarize without meaning to or even realizing it. Paraphrasing or changing words here and there without giving credit to the original author are both considered plagiarism, and this can be a difficult thing for students, especially younger ones, to grasp. 

So how do you teach your students about it?  
First, they need to know what it is. Show examples that span the range of blatant word-for-word plagiarism to “borrowing ideas” plagiarism. If you have those younger students, you may also have to remind them again why it’s bad to plagiarize as they may not realize it’s wrong. 

Then, demonstrate ways to properly use quotes and cite sources. There are different approaches to incorporating these ideas in writing, such as quotation marks, footnotes, and block quotes. 

Finally, give them opportunities for practice. As an education instructor I had in college said –more like, drilled into my head, – “Practice makes permanent.” Have students identify plagiarism in writing as well as practice proper citation strategies. 

Pro tip: Have students use note cards during their research. When they come across an idea, quote, or fact that they may use, they’ll write it on one side of the card and the citation on the other side. Then, when they are writing, if they use one of their notes, the source information is already there for them to include. 

Writing instruction is not complete without a lesson on plagiarism. Giving students the tools they need to navigate this complicated topic will help keep them accountable for their work and protect the integrity of the written word. This helps to nurture bright, responsible, and independent thinkers. 

We wish you well this year and hope that you are able to confidently walk your students through the choppy waters of plagiarism. And if you want to give them wings and see if they fly, you can always ask Honest Abe, MI Write’s newest beta feature*, to check their work. If you’re a current user and would like more information about Honest Abe, watch this video and reach out to your Client Success Specialist if you have questions. If you are interested in becoming an MI Write client and getting Honest Abe, email us today at We’d love to hear from you!

Honest Abe is here to help keep your students accountable!

*As a feature in beta form, our plagiarism checker is not in its final state and will have some limitations to its use. To make necessary tweaks that will improve its function and usability, we’re inviting clients to give it a try in beta mode. We will periodically reach out to those who are using it for feedback through surveys and focus groups.

The MI Write Team

Measurement Incorporated

With past lives that range from restaurant servers and sales reps to teachers and models, the MI Write team has a wealth of knowledge, experience, and wisdom to share with readers!  
Learn more about us here. Don’t forget to connect with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter