Examples of plagiarism

Below are examples of the most prevalent forms of plagiarism, along with commentary and examples of ways to correct them.*

* In these examples, APA documentation style is used. Please ensure that you use the documentation style required by your instructor.

Please consider the following passage from George Orwell’s famous essay, Politics and the English Language, which will be used as the source material for all examples:

Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. (from Collected Essays: George Orwell, 1961, p. 353)

ORIGINAL TEXT

Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. (from Collected Essays: George Orwell, 1961, p. 353)

 

PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE 1

People using the English language need a strong wake-up call because the very way we form and govern societies is entwined with the way we formulate words about them. We need to use words in a way that will help us to think clearly because to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration - and political regeneration is obviously something we are in great need of right now.

 

PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE 1 COMMENTS

  • Here the writer is including Orwell’s phrase, “to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration,” and indeed, Orwell’s very term, “political regeneration,” without citing the source in any way.
  • This is plagiarism because a reader is not given reason to suspect that any of the words or ideas in this phrase actually belong to anyone other than the writer.

 

PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE 2

Written English, when used poorly, can lead to inexact thinking, which in turn can lead to an inability to revitalize political thought. As such, making a conscious effort to use English well becomes the responsibility not only of authors but of all citizens.

 

PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE 2 COMMENTS

  • Here the writer has managed to summarize Orwell’s passage using different words and phrasing, but the source is not cited.
  • This is still plagiarism. A reader would not know that these are not the writer’s original thoughts, but rather, Orwell’s.

 

ORIGINAL TEXT

Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. (from Collected Essays: George Orwell, 1961, p. 353)

  

PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE

As George Orwell (1961, p. 353) once noted, current-day written English is full of bad habits which spread by imitation. And because if one gets rid of these bad habits one can think more clearly, it can be argued that the fight against them is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. So let the battle begin!

Plagiarized example - text with errors highlighted

As George Orwell (1961, p. 353) once noted, current-day written English is full of bad habits which spread by imitation. And because if one gets rid of these bad habits one can think more clearly, it can be argued that the fight against them is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. So let the battle begin!

PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE COMMENTS

  • All of the highlighted words below are Orwell’s own words and thus should be enclosed within quotation marks; because they are not, a reader has no way of knowing which words are Orwell’s and which are the writer’s, and the writer has thus committed plagiarism.

 

 

ORIGINAL TEXT

Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. (from Collected Essays: George Orwell, 1961, p. 353)

 

PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE 1

George Orwell observed, in the first half of the 20th century, that people’s use of written English is marred by a number of bad habits. So he enjoined his readers to take the trouble to be more careful with their word choice, arguing that in so doing they would be able to think more clearly. His concern stemmed not only from his love of the language and of clear thinking, however. Orwell also had a keen concern over the way the use of language influenced political messages, and he proposed that to infuse greater honesty in the political realm, clear writing, and clear thinking were necessary first steps (1961, p. 353).

 

Plagiarized example 1 - text with errors highlighted

George Orwell observed, in the first half of the 20th century, that people’s use of written English is marred by a number of bad habits. So he enjoined his readers to take the trouble to be more careful with their word choice, arguing that in so doing they would be able to think more clearly. His concern stemmed not only from his love of the language and of clear thinking, however. Orwell also had a keen concern over the way the use of language influenced political messages, and he proposed that to infuse greater honesty in the political realm, clear writing, and clear thinking were necessary first steps (1961, p. 353).

 

PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE 1 COMMENTS

  • The attempt at paraphrasing above reveals a common error students make in academic writing. The source has been properly cited, and the writer has taken a fair bit of trouble to render the passage in his or her own words.
  • However, periodically the writer has “lifted” key phrases from the original, as is highlighted below, and this, again, constitutes plagiarism.
  • Instead, these phrases should have had quotation marks around them or, better still, they too should have been paraphrased.

PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE 2

As Orwell (1961) puts it, contemporary English, particularly that which is written, is replete with poor habits which get spread when one writer imitates another. He points out that this can be prevented if a person is determined to make the necessary effort. If a person can shed such habits he or she will become a clearer thinker, and thinking more clearly is a crucial initial move towards political rebirth. Therefore, the battle with poor English is not petty nor is it the sole responsibility of those who write for a living (p. 353).

 

Plagiarized example 2 - text with errors highlighted

Modern [contemporary] English, especially written English [particularly that which is written], is full of bad habits which spread by imitation [replete with poor habits which spread when one writer imitates another] and which can be avoided [prevented] if one is willing [if a person is determined] to take the necessary trouble [make the necessary effort]. If one gets rid of these habits [If a person can shed these habits] one can think more clearly [he or she will become a clearer thinker], and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration [and thinking more clearly is a crucial initial move towards political rebirth]: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous [Therefore, the battle with poor English is not petty] and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers [nor is it the sole responsibility of those who write for a living].

 

PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE 2 COMMENTS

  • The writer has simply lifted whole phrases from the original, here and there making word substitutions. Such an exercise does not show that the writer has the ability to explain what Orwell has said in his or her own manner of writing and as such constitutes a form of plagiarism.
  • This writer has not actually paraphrased the original passage; paraphrasing involves explaining the original in the writer’s own wording and sentence structure.
  • All this writer has done is to replace the words in Orwell’s sentences with words of similar meaning, otherwise merely parroting what Orwell wrote.
  • Consider Orwell’s our writer’s word replacements.

 

PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE CORRECTED

Orwell was concerned with what he considered a dangerous link between careless language use, fuzzy thinking, and governance. He, therefore, appealed to his audience to view the thoughtful use of language as a universal civic responsibility (1961, p. 353).

 

COMMENTS

  • In correction, the writer, while carefully citing Orwell as the source, has sufficiently internalized Orwell’s message to be able to explain it in his or her own writing style, without “borrowing” Orwell’s sentence structure.

 

 

 

Note: This is not strictly “plagiarism” as the term is defined, but a related problem in that your reader will not know which portion of your text is yours and which portion is something you have taken from someone else.

ORIGINAL

Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. (from Collected Essays: George Orwell, 1961, p. 353)

 

PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE

Orwell was concerned with what he considered a dangerous link between careless language use, fuzzy thinking, and governance. He therefore appealed to his audience to view the thoughtful use of language as a universal civic responsibility. In the rhetoric of politics and politicians, doublespeak, euphemisms, and deliberate misrepresentations of what opponents have said are common - and the purpose of these uses of language is often to deliberately mislead the public. It is only when citizens are aware of and able to deconstruct the public misuse of language that we will be able to hold politicians accountable for their words (1961, p. 353).

 PLAGIARIZED EXAMPLE COMMENTS

  • The problem in the above passage is that in putting the citation at the end of the paragraph, the writer makes it seem as if everything in the paragraph is a paraphrase of what Orwell wrote, when in fact the final two sentences, although perhaps very important to the writer’s own argument, go beyond what Orwell was discussing.
  • This both fails to give credit to the writer for his or her own ideas and puts words in Orwell’s mouth that he did not utter on page 353.
  • And while one might argue that this problem is not precisely an example of plagiarism, it does constitute a misrepresentation of the source material, and can get the writer into the same kind of trouble as outright plagiarism.
  • There are several ways to solve this problem. Here are two:

 

 PLAGIARIZED TEXT CORRECTION 1

Orwell (1961, p. 353) was concerned with what he considered a dangerous link between careless language use, fuzzy thinking, and governance. He therefore appealed to his audience to view the thoughtful use of language as a universal civic responsibility. Indeed, Orwell’s concerns are just as relevant today as they were when he wrote them. In the rhetoric of politics and politicians, doublespeak, euphemisms, and deliberate misrepresentations of what opponents have said are common - and the purpose of these uses of language is often to deliberately mislead the public. It is only when citizens are aware of and able to deconstruct the public misuse of language that we will be able to hold politicians accountable for their words.

 

PLAGIARIZED TEXT CORRECTION 1 COMMENTS

  • Give the citation at the beginning of the paraphrase, and interject a transitional phrase to indicate the point at which the paraphrase has ended.
  • Placing the citation immediately after the paraphrase makes it clear that at this point the paraphrase is over.

 

PLAGIARIZED TEXT CORRECTION 2

Orwell (1961) was concerned with what he considered a dangerous link between careless language use, fuzzy thinking, and governance. He, therefore, appealed to his audience to view the thoughtful use of language as a universal civic responsibility (p. 353). In the rhetoric of politics and politicians, doublespeak, euphemisms, and deliberate misrepresentations of what opponents have said are common - and the purpose of these uses of language is often to deliberately mislead the public. It is only when citizens are aware of and able to deconstruct the public misuse of language that we will be able to hold politicians accountable for their words.

 

PLAGIARIZED TEXT CORRECTION 2 COMMENTS

 

  • Placing the citation immediately after the paraphrase makes it clear that at this point the paraphrase is over.