December 12, 2019

Carol Duke

Teaching Students about Plagiarism

Topics: Learning at Home, Learning Through Play


According to a survey of 24,000 students at 70 academic institutions, 58% admitted to plagiarism and 95 percent said they may have participated in some form of academic cheating, whether on an exam or copying someone else’s work.

Students plagiarize for various reasons. Some kids have poor time and work management skills, some want to work on it in the least possible amount of time, others may not have confidence in their own writing skills, while some simply don’t understand what plagiarism is.

Most students begin to write lengthy, fact-based paper assignments during their late elementary years. Teachers assign these types of papers so students can learn to identify and avoid plagiarism. However, explaining plagiarism can be a real pain, especially when you’re dealing with children.

While some teachers have already dealt with it in some way or form, others probably haven’t quite figured out the best way to combat it. Keep reading to learn some practical techniques to explaining plagiarism to young students.



1. Explain What Plagiarism Means 

The first and most important step is to help your students understand the meaning of plagiarism, by defining the term.

Simply put, plagiarism is when a person copies the ideas and/or words of another, claims it as his or her own work, while failing to cite the original source of information.

Your young students probably already understand that stealing from someone else is bad. However, it may be challenging to explain to them that it’s also possible to steal other people’s ideas or words, and that doing so is just as wrong as stealing a physical object. Therefore, it’s important that you find tactics to explain the concept of plagiarism in a way they can understand and personally relate to.


2. Explain the Importance of Avoiding Plagiarism


Make it clear to your students that taking something from someone – whether or not it’s physical – is wrong. Help them understand that just like physical objects, words and ideas come with value.  

Ask to put themselves in the shoes of the individual who’s had their words or ideas stolen by someone else. What would they feel if another person attempts to pass it off as their own?

For assignments and research, teach the young ones how to properly cite their sources and that avoiding plagiarism is critical, as it’s an integral way of showing respect to others’ works. At the same time, it can help them avoid facing disciplinary action.

Most importantly, every student must understand the purpose of assignments and research papers:

It’s not just about writing and researching – it’s about learning!


3. Explain How to Avoid Plagiarism


A good way to show children how to identify and avoid plagiarism, is by giving examples of it. For instance, you can ask them to find a passage from their favorite storybook and have them summarize it without using any phrases or sentences from that passage. And then, review your students’ assignments with them, taking note of the following:

  • Does the student credit the sources used when mentioning another person’s work? If yes, were the citations correctly used?
  • Does the student put an author’s words in quotation marks?
  • Does the student use words/phrases differently (paraphrase) from that of the author’s original work?

If a student uses citations the correct way, don’t forget to praise them. Likewise, praise originality in their own work or when they come up with fresh ideas.

On the other hand, if you do detect plagiarism, make sure to show them how to cite the author’s words and ideas properly. As a teacher, you are an excellent reference for tips on explaining this concept to young students.


4. Explain Your Zero-Tolerance Plagiarism Policy


As a teacher, your task doesn’t end with just telling your students that plagiarism is wrong. Encourage discussion and talk with them about things like copyright and intellectual property. Let them know the specific consequences that come with plagiarism, and make it clear that these consequences apply whether the act is unintentional or deliberate.

When explaining plagiarism to the young ones, it’s important to define the term, show the necessity of avoiding it, and identify key strategies to maintain academic integrity.

By understanding all of these, a student stands a better chance at taking steps to help them stay out of trouble.



Carol Duke is very keen on teaching students new, effective ways of learning. When not freelancing and blogging on education-related matters, Carol enjoys traveling, taking immense pleasure from visiting new countries. You can follow her on Twitter.


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