Skip to main content

Plagiarism tutorial: Plagiarism defined

Plagiarism Tutorial

Plagiarism defined

Plagiarize: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own; use
(another's production) without crediting the source; to commit literary theft;
present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Britannica Online Academic Ed., 2011


Here are just a few examples of plagiarism:

  • Copying/pasting text from a website, book or journal article into your history paper without citing it
  • Using opinions expressed by a book reviewer and claiming them as your own
  • Copying from a friend's science lab report and turning it in as your own
  • Getting the answers to the math homework from a classmate or by searching online
  • Buying an essay from an online source and using all or part of it
  • Copying some computer code from a friend because you can't figure it out yourself
  • Getting a Latin translation from a classmate because you don't have time to do it
  • Letting a tutor, foreign language expert or parent edit your paper and then turning it in as your own work
  • Using a conclusion or opinion expressed by a class member during a discussion without giving credit
  • Allowing a private college counselor or tutor to write or significantly contribute to your college application essay
  • Using an online language translation service (unless specifically directed to do so by your teacher)
  • Copying from someone else's paper during a test or quiz (also called "cheating," but it's really plagiarism)

Plagiarism can also occur when someone else's ideas or conclusions are improperly paraphrased. It is not enough to simply change a few words in a sentence or put several sentences in a different order; if what you have written largely resembles the text you are referring to, you should either reword your paraphrase or use that text as a direct quote. Proper paraphrasing takes practice - you will have that opportunity later in this tutorial. Even a properly written paraphrase needs a citation, however, as the ideas or conclusions are those of the author and not your own.

Family discussion: how can parents and/or tutors assist students with homework in an ethical manner?

Now you try it!

You've finally gotten through a busy school day, attended drama rehearsal, finished all of your homework, and are ready for bed. You're tired! Suddenly you remember that you also have a Spanish translation due tomorrow. What should you do? Click on each of the choices below:

Go to sleep and tell your teacher you were too tired to finish your homework

Text a friend and have her email tonight's translation for you to copy

Stay up late to finish your homework

Fun fact!

The word plagiarism comes from the Latin word plagiarius which means "kidnapper." You don't want to kidnap someone else's idea, right?


The cartoons used in this tutorial were purchased from The license allows online use for educational purposes as long as the website is not open to the public, which is the reason the tutorial is password-protected.

Questions? Comments?

Click here if you have a question or comment about this tutorial.