Studies show that children as young as five or six can understand that plagiarism is wrong. So your middle schooler or high schooler definitely knows that plagiarism isn’t a good idea. That said, she might not even know if she's doing it.
Different Ways Kids Plagiarize
There are many ways in which students might plagiarize, or take credit, for text and ideas that are not their own. Here are some common methods of plagiarizing that students employ:
Copying and pasting text
This is the most common form of plagiarism because most research is done on the Internet. Students include verbatim copies of other sources in their own paper. This may be intentional or unintentional.
Copying text with some alterations
Some students will copy a passage and then find synonyms for a few words. Even if the text does not match its source word for word, this is still plagiarism, and the student can get in major trouble.
Copying from several articles
Another common practice consists of copying text from various sources and assembling it together with a few of the student’s own sentences in between.
Forgetting to attribute
Even if a student rewrites an entire portion in her own words, if she does not indicate where the paraphrased idea came from, this is plagiarism.
Turning in prior work
Repurposing past papers and assignments, even if they are from different classes, is often considered plagiarism (unless the instructor has given express permission to do this).
There are still other forms of plagiarism. To learn more, check out a useful summary here.
Penalties Are Severe
The least severe consequence is that your child will receive an “F” on that particular assignment. The worst is expulsion (often a consequence for repeat offenders) or suspension. Typically, schools and colleges take a hard line on plagiarism. It has legal consequences in the real world, and it is considered to be equivalent to theft. It is akin to cheating.
Steps to Stop Plagiarism
Here’s how you can help your child avoid plagiarism:
1. Show your child how to take notes while she does her research.
Encourage your child to take notes — either on the computer or in her notebook — on the information she plans to use. Have her create a list for each of her sources. If she composes notes electronically, she should print them out if possible.
Good notes are just that — they're notes, not long and dense paragraphs. Your child should jot down important facts, general concepts, and points to which she wants to return on each of her sheets. And she should put the page number or website next to or under that collection of facts so she can refer back to her source easily. If she found a great quotation she wants to use, she can list it in her notes, clearly designating it with quotation marks.
2. Teach your child how to cite sources.
Your child's teacher will probably provide a preferred style for citing sources. Two of the most common citation forms are MLA and APA. Students should be familiar with both because the method will vary by teacher.
Different citation styles can be complicated, so spend some time showing your child how to make a bibliography or works cited page. There are various tools you can explore together, such as Zotero and EndNote, which automatically generate citations after you input some information about your sources.
Understanding the basics of citation can be really helpful when things get more complicated with footnotes, endnotes, and works-consulted pages. You should also show her how to use quotations or citations to give credit.
3. Make your child put away her sources when she writes the first draft.
When your child starts the actual writing process, she should get in the habit of closing web pages and books.
Have her refer to her notes, which ideally are not written in complete sentences, but are more like bullet points or lists. While the notes may be written in the same order in which they were read, your child doesn't need to organize her paper or report in thate way. She should begin by summarizing the topic, and then address the points she finds salient. In this process, she should cite sources for the concepts she introduces.Above all, she should be writing in her own voice and style — not using an expert’s vocabulary or phrasing. Your child may use supporting quotations when necessary, but those can be woven in after she has decided on her own structure.
Get your child in the habit of writing papers using her own words. An added benefit is that you'll be certain that she's actually understood all the research she’s done. This strategy also builds confident writers. She’ll know that she doesn't need to read someone else’s words as she writes her own. Just make sure she cites the sources!
Bailey, J. (2010, September 23). What Age Do Children See Plagiarism As Wrong? Retrieved November 7, 2014 from Plagiarism Today
McCracken, L., & Jabs, C. (2009, January 1). Students and Unintentional Plagiarism. Retrieved November 10, 2014 from Charlotte Parent
Petronzio, M. (2012, August 29). Use These 10 Sites to Detect Plagiarism. Retrieved November 10, 2014 from Mashable.
Phillips, V. (2012, July 9). 10 Types of Plagiarism and Academic Cheating. Retrieved November 10, 2014 from GetEducated