In General Knowledge for the Family

Time to Understand What Is plagiarism

Writers and authors of the biggest, literary works to the smallest catalogue descriptions are artists. They use words to create pictures, evoke emotions and transport you to worlds past, present and future. These words are protected by law as original creations of these literary artists and should not be stolen or used by anyone else: plagiarized. But what is plagiarism? Students can often slip into plagiarizing without knowing. This subconscious plagiarizing is still wrong. Hopefully, educators are teaching the drawbacks of copying others’ works and enforcing the punishments when it occurs. As a parent, you can also guide your child down the right path to avoid stealing. In the same way you teach your child not to steal from a store, their friends or your neighbor’s houses, you can teach them not to steal words and concepts. This frees them to create without the worry that someone will steal their ideas too.

What Is Plagiarism?

According to the Oxford Dictionaries online, plagiarism is, “The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.” You may question whether that sentence is plagiarized. It is not because proper citation is given and quotes surround the words that are directly taken from the web-site. As a reader, you know the Oxford Dictionary is the place where that sentence originated.

On the other hand, taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own, and without any quotation marks or a reference to the original work, is plagiarism. You can cite references in different ways. You can place the original author in the sentence, or you can have a page of references attached to your work. Then, you typically place a small number next to the words to show the reader where to locate your source.

If you’re still asking, “What is plagiarism?” think of it this way: plagiarism is a fraudulent act that involves stealing words, concepts and ideas. You are not recreating a sculpture or painting and passing it off as your own, that is a different type of theft. When you plagiarize, you steal words, ideas, concepts and say they are your own.

The plagiarism definition also includes images and music. If you film a video off the internet, or while sitting in a movie theater, and say that it is your original creation, you are plagiarizing. The same is true for photographs. If you present another’s image as your own, you are committing fraud and plagiarizing that person’s work. If you play a song and claim it is an original creation, but you are actually performing a cover, you are plagiarizing.

As a reminder, plagiarism includes:

  • Stealing words from another and taking credit for them
  • Passing off another’s video as your own
  • Copying music and claiming it as your original creation
  • Using copyrighted music in the background of a video or other production
  • Misquoting someone or forgetting to use quotation marks to give proper credit
  • Avoiding proper references or citations for information that is not common knowledge
  • Patterning your sentences, papers or books after someone else’s, even if you change the words

Your Children

Students may be guilty of unintentional or intentional plagiarism. They may feel they are “borrowing” someone’s ideas, or may get so caught up in writing the paper that they think the words are their own. Either way, the plagiarism definition still applies. Discuss with your students the reasons to avoid plagiarism.

  • It stunts their creativity when they steal other’s works
  • It is illegal
  • It harms the artist when the creator does not receive credit
  • It reduces their credibility and integrity when discovered
  • It involves punishment and accountability from the school system

Teach your children the plagiarism meaning and how it applies to words, ideas, concepts, images, and music. If your child wants to cut and paste words off the Internet into his school paper, he is plagiarizing. He does not learn how to create concepts on his own or even basic skills such as how to form sentences. These are important life skills that he needs long after he graduates from college.

Students today live in a hurried society. They are used to having everything instantly at their fingertips through the Internet, smart phones and video game systems. It can be difficult for your student to spend the hours needed to research, form their own ideas and capture those ideas through the written word. You can encourage your child to think creatively and talk to them about how they would feel if someone stole their work. Often when a child can see things from the opposite point of view, the impact is greater!

Plagiarism Is Detectable

You or your student may wonder if anyone will be able to tell if you have plagiarized. As a writer, if your work is submitted to an on-line business, it is put through programs to detect plagiarism. These web-sites are built specifically for detecting plagiarism and preventing this fraudulent act.

If you or your student are submitting a paper to school, teachers are well versed in checking for plagiarism and catching plagiarism as they have seen hundreds of papers. If yours isn’t original or contains quotes that are not cited, you will be caught for plagiarizing. Teachers and educators also have the ability to send words through anti-plagiarism detectors so you are better off creating original works.

Your concern for avoiding plagiarism can be lessened and you can detect plagiarism at home by using one of the free programs or web-sites that will show you how to check plagiarism in your own literary works.

How to Detect Plagiarism

You can submit your child’s papers to anti plagiarism detectors, but another way to help your child avoid stealing another’s works is to review their references, citations and quotations. Read through your child’s paper and look for sentences that seem beyond their writing level, or those that should have quotation marks. This may take you a little extra time, but it will also help your student avoid the penalties and consequences of plagiarism.

Teach students that avoiding plagiarism is easier than the time it takes to repair the damages from stealing. Remind students that they should be grateful for those who created the works and ideas, as our society grows when every idea is allowed to blossom. If people continually steal from each other, no one will want to create anything new and society’s growth is stifled. The best place to begin is by teaching your student what is plagiarism, then you can teach them how to avoid it.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Whether you or your student’s intentions are good, plagiarism can still be an issue if you do not provide correct citations, references and alter the words to say things in your unique style. A few ways to reduce your plagiarizing risks include:

  • Make sure you allow enough time to write your paper, review your work, check for plagiarism and time for a re-write if needed.
  • Collect your references and learn how to cite each reference correctly by following your teacher’s specific instructions.
  • Write your references on a separate sheet and include the author’s name, publisher, date, page number and the title plus any additional information you think you’ll need.
  • Use quotation marks if you are repeating a comment word for word. These should only be used to make a dramatic impact.
  • Always cite the author of the quotation.
  • Cite anything that is not common knowledge. For example, you do not have to cite a reference to the heart circulating blood throughout the body- that is common knowledge. However, if you are writing a paper about heart surgery or valve replacement, reference the doctor who developed the surgery or valve, or the journal that supplied the statistic on heart valve replacements.
  • Take your time and put your own spin on your work instead of paraphrasing everything you read.


The consequences of plagiarizing vary from educational facilities and work places. If you cannot find anything in your school’s policy on plagiarizing, review the consequences for cheating, as it typically falls under that category.

If your student is caught plagiarizing, review the school’s policy on this act, but expect consequences such as:

  • Teachers are required to report plagiarism to their principal, dean or other school authorities
  • Contact from the teacher regarding your offense and a possible hearing at a disciplinary meeting
  • Receiving a zero or failing grade on the assignment
  • Possibly receiving a zero or failing grade for the entire class
  • School suspension with no time to make up the lost work
  • School expulsion depending on policy and previous behavior
  • A severe warning and placement on academic probation
  • At the college level, suspension and expulsion may occur
  • Revoking of a college diploma if discovered, according to the University of Virginia

If you, or your child, is caught plagiarizing at work, the consequences are also severe, such as:

  • Fired from the job
  • Loss of credibility with superiors
  • Damaged reputation
  • Inability to find similar work
  • Fines may be imposed if also infringing on a copyright

Copyright Vs. Plagiarism

When you create something, for example a poem, short story, novel, song, music composition, video, painting, sculpture, drawing, unique quilt, knitting pattern, and many more, your creations are legally protected by the copyright law. These creations are considered “intellectual inventions” and are protected just like any other invention.

If someone steals your words, music, videos, paintings, etc. they are committing plagiarism. You are entitled to protection of your works, the same way in which others are protected. This reduces stress and concern for you about your work being stolen.

For example, if you are a writer and want to submit a work to a publisher but fear that publisher will steal your idea, you can rest. Once you have created your words and have saved them to a computer, or even your journal or notebook, your work is protected. So, a co-worker cannot pick up your notebook, take your words and repeat them as his own without being accused of plagiarizing and violating the copyright protection law.

This keeps people honest and open to creating new ideas. You avoid plagiarizing others because you do not want it done to you.

Celebrity Plagiarism

Plagiarism doesn’t just affect students and workers. The Beatle’s George Harrison had to ask himself the question “What is plagiarism” when he was sued in 1976 for one of his songs, “My Sweet Lord” sounding too much like the Chiffon song “He’s So Fine,” The court determined that Harrison “subconsciously plagiarized” the Chiffon song and he had to pay a penalty.

No one is safe from being accused of plagiarism. J.K. Rowling the author of the Harry Potter books spent many years in court defending an accusation of plagiarism. The author of another book claimed that Rowling used the same pacing and challenges that he did in his published book. Rowling denied the accusation and the case was ultimately dismissed.

These examples show how protective people can be of their creations. Words and the way they are arranged to tell stories are unique and deserve to be protected. The anti-plagiarism laws exist to protect you as a writer and you as a creator. Your work is deemed yours, as soon as you put your fingers to the keyboard or the pen to the paper.

In an effort to promote integrity and freedom of creation, avoid plagiarism at all costs and teach your children to do the same.

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