Plagiarism resources for educators

Plagiarism can be a tricky subject to teach. While it may be most familiar to students as a deliberate choice— e.g. copy-and-pasting something from Wikipedia or turning in a paper they didn’t write— it’s also important for them to know that plagiarism often occurs accidentally.

We have compiled a variety of resources targeted at educators and professionals seeking to teach high-school or college-age students about plagiarism. These include sample lecture slides, videos, in-depth examples, quizzes, and downloadable worksheets.

Plagiarism articles and guides

The Scribbr Knowledge Base is an open-source collection of free resources to help students succeed in academic research, writing, and citation skills. We regularly publish helpful content to make challenging topics more accessible to students.

The following resources can help students cite with confidence and avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism lecture slides

We have adapted several of our most popular articles into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about a variety of academic topics.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

Open Google SlidesDownload PowerPoint

Plagiarism videos

The Scribbr YouTube channel is dedicated to helping students understand a variety of academic topics. In addition to our plagiarism-related videos below, we also have videos explaining other topics, such as writing a research paper, the rules of APA style, and beyond.

Plagiarism examples

One of the best ways to teach students about plagiarism is via examples. It can be easy to forget a set of quotation marks, to paraphrase too closely, or to leave out a citation. Showing students real-life examples of plagiarism can also make the subject more relatable.

Incorrect paraphrasing

Paraphrasing means formulating someone else’s ideas in your own words. In order to do so correctly, you must entirely rewrite the passage you are referencing without changing the meaning of the original text.

Every time you paraphrase, it’s important to cite the original source, and avoid wording that is too similar to the original. Otherwise, you could be at risk of committing plagiarism.

Original text
“So much of modern-day life revolves around using opposable thumbs, from holding a hammer to build a home to ordering food delivery on our smartphones. But for our ancestors, the uses were much simpler. Strong and nimble thumbs meant that they could better create and wield tools, stones and bones for killing large animals for food” (Handwerk, 2021).
Example of plagiarism: Paraphrased poorly with no citation
A lot of life today involves using opposable thumbs, from using a hammer to build a house to ordering something on our smartphones. But for our predecessors, the uses were much more simple. Powerful and dexterous thumbs meant that they could better make and use tools, stones and bones for killing large animals to eat.

Solution: Paraphrasing does not mean just switching out a few words from a copied-and-pasted text. In order to paraphrase correctly, you should rewrite the author’s point to show that you completely understand it. Don’t forget to include a citation!

Example: Paraphrased correctly with a citation
Our opposable thumbs are such an ingrained part of our day-to-day life that we likely do not even pay them much notice. However, they could be a matter of life or death for our ancestors. Per Handwerk (2021), opposable thumbs allowed earlier humans to survive and thrive, enhancing their ability to create tools and weapons to kill large animals.

Incorrect quoting

Quoting means copying a brief passage of someone else’s words, enclosed in quotation marks. Be sure to correctly cite the original source, and make sure that the text within quotation marks is identical to the original.

In academic writing, it’s usually best to quote sparingly. Consider paraphrasing instead, to better show that you have understood the source and make your work more original.

Original text
“Ancient Sparta has been held up for the last two and a half millennia as the unmatched warrior city-state, where every male was raised from infancy to fight to the death. This view, as ingrained as it is alluring, is almost entirely false” (Cole, 2021).
Example of plagiarism: No quotation marks or citation
For the last 2500 years, Ancient Sparta has been considered the unmatched warrior city-state in popular imagination. The idea that every male was raised from infancy to fight to the death, as ingrained as it is alluring, is actually not true.

Solution: The text you are quoting must be introduced in your own words, enclosed in quotation marks, and correctly attributed to the original author. In general, quotations should be used sparingly.

Example: Quoted correctly with a citation
For the last 2500 years, Ancient Sparta has been considered the “unmatched warrior city-state” in popular imagination, where “every male was raised from birth to fight to the death.” Despite its prominence, this conceptualization is actually not true. (Cole, 2021).

Failure to cite ideas and information

Even if you’re not directly copying a passage of text, you still need to cite the source of information and ideas that you use in your writing.

Just like common sense, common knowledge is not always so common. You may be tempted to mention a fact, concept, or equation that you assume everyone knows, but proceed with caution.

In order to be considered common knowledge, your statement should be widely known, undisputed, and easily verified. It also generally cannot be attributed to a specific person or paper. When in doubt, add a citation.

Example of common knowledge
Independence Day in the United States is celebrated on July 4.
Example that needs a citation
The Continental Congress actually voted for independence on July 2, 1776, even though Independence Day today is celebrated every July 4.
Example with correct citation
The Continental Congress actually voted for independence on July 2, 1776, even though Independence Day today is celebrated every July 4 (National Archives, 2005).

Real-life examples of plagiarism

There are many relevant examples of plagiarism in different industries, from pop culture to academia and public speaking.

Plagiarism in academic settings is not just limited to words. Using the datasets or research findings of others is also considered plagiarism.In 2006, the Brookings Institute accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having plagiarized 80% of his economics dissertation from a paper published by the University of Pittsburgh a few decades earlier.

Dissertation plagiarism committed by other famous politicians, such as former Senator John Walsh, former German Defense Secretary Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg, and former Hungarian President Pal Schmitt, led to their resignations and their degrees being revoked.

Source: CNN

Reusing or copying existing materials has been a big part of many types of art. However, it is still possible to plagiarize art.In 1966, famous Pop Art artist Andy Warhol was sued by photographer Patricia Caulfield, who claimed unauthorized use of one of her photographs. Warhol had seen her photo of hibiscus flowers in the 1964 issue of Modern Photography, and used it for his silkscreen work Flowers.

While Warhol’s team argued that this was “fair use”, a judge determined that Warhol had, in fact, plagiarized the photo. This led to enduring reputation costs and a large financial settlement.

Source: Garden Collage

Many political speeches revolve around similar themes, but while it is natural to draw inspiration from previous speeches, paraphrasing too closely is considered plagiarism.In 2016, a speech Melania Trump gave at the Republican National Convention was found to have copied several paragraphs almost-verbatim from a speech Michelle Obama gave at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. While her staff claimed that she had incorporated “fragments of others’ speeches that reflected her own thinking,” she was widely considered to have plagiarized.

Joe Biden was found to have committed similar plagiarism in a speech he gave during the 1988 presidential campaign, paraphrasing a speech by Welsh politician Neil Kinnock too closely.

Source: CNN

While technically no one owns a chord progression or particular combination of sounds, plagiarism in the music industry is a common accusation.In 2018, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2013 hit song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams infringed on the copyright of the song “Got to Give it Up” by the late Marvin Gaye. The Gaye family was awarded over $5 million in damages as well as 50% of the royalties moving forward.

This sets a precedent that new music must be different in both style and substance from previously-copyrighted songs. Other hit artists, such as Sam Smith, George Harrison, and Olivia Rodrigo, have faced similar consequences.

Source: ABC News

Downloadable plagiarism worksheets and handouts

See below for two worksheets to help students practice paraphrasing and quoting correctly, as well as a common knowledge quiz asking them to choose which statements are common knowledge and which need a citation.

Worksheet: Practicing paraphrasing

Download worksheet

Worksheet: Practicing quoting

Download worksheet

Quiz: Common knowledge vs. needs citation

Download quiz

Frequently asked questions

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism means presenting someone else’s work as your own without giving proper credit to the original author. In academic writing, plagiarism involves using words, ideas, or information from a source without including a citation.

Plagiarism can have serious consequences, even when it’s done accidentally. To avoid plagiarism, it’s important to keep track of your sources and cite them correctly.

What are some examples of plagiarism?

Some examples of plagiarism include:

  • Copying and pasting a Wikipedia article into the body of an assignment
  • Quoting a source without including a citation
  • Not paraphrasing a source properly, such as maintaining wording too close to the original
  • Forgetting to cite the source of an idea

The most surefire way to avoid plagiarism is to always cite your sources. When in doubt, cite!

Can plagiarism be accidental?

Accidental plagiarism is one of the most common examples of plagiarism. Perhaps you forgot to cite a source, or paraphrased something a bit too closely. Maybe you can’t remember where you got an idea from, and aren’t totally sure if it’s original or not.

These all count as plagiarism, even though you didn’t do it on purpose. When in doubt, make sure you’re citing your sources. Also consider running your work through a plagiarism checker tool prior to submission, which work by using advanced database software to scan for matches between your text and existing texts.

What is the difference between plagiarism and paraphrasing?

Plagiarism means using someone else’s words or ideas and passing them off as your own. Paraphrasing means putting someone else’s ideas in your own words.

So when does paraphrasing count as plagiarism?

  • Paraphrasing is plagiarism if you don’t properly credit the original author.
  • Paraphrasing is plagiarism if your text is too close to the original wording (even if you cite the source). If you directly copy a sentence or phrase, you should quote it instead.
  • Paraphrasing is not plagiarism if you put the author’s ideas completely in your own words and properly cite the source.
How can I summarize a source without plagiarizing?

To avoid plagiarism when summarizing an article or other source, follow these two rules:

  • Write the summary entirely in your own words by paraphrasing the author’s ideas.
  • Cite the source with an in-text citation and a full reference so your reader can easily find the original text.
Is this article helpful?
Tegan George

Tegan is an American based in Amsterdam, with master's degrees in political science and education administration. While she is definitely a political scientist at heart, her experience working at universities led to a passion for making social science topics more approachable and exciting to students. A well-designed natural experiment is her favorite type of research, but she also loves qualitative methods of all varieties.