Avoiding Plagiarism: The Pitfalls of Copy and Paste

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NCVPS teachers have a lot of great tips to share with online students and the support crews who facilitate their learning. “They know a thing or two because they’ve seen a thing or two.”

Avoiding Plagiarism: The Pitfalls of Copy and Paste

In our digital world, it’s very easy to cut and paste. This simple technological wizardry allows us to revise and rearrange our own information quickly and easily. That’s certainly fine when it’s our own work. I’ve already done that twice in this short blog post.

However, when we are copying and pasting someone else’s information, that’s when we can get into a lot of trouble. If you use someone else’s content without their permission in the workplace, the consequences can be dire. If you use someone else’s content in the classroom, you can fail an assignment and maybe face disciplinary action.

There are two ways you can use someone else’s content in the classroom.

1. Cite your source. Be up front about it. Put the copied text in quotes or use a block indent, and then cite where the content came from. This gives credit to the original author and is standard practice in an academic paper.

2. Summarize and paraphrase. This is a bit harder. Put the content into your own words. Changing one or two words (or word order) isn’t enough to avoid plagiarism. This is where you have to digest the information, think about it, and then recast the information using your own words.

Often you will have specific directions from your teacher:

“Find information about this topic and cite your sources when you write your paper.”

“Read this paper and summarize what you read.”


There are a number of ways to check your own work for plagiarism. Before submitting a written assignment, consider using one of the following links to check your work and be sure that you are writing in your own words.


Your teachers use these sites all the time to check your work after you submit it, so they may have even more resources for you to use if you ask them!

Ask for Help

If you’re still in doubt, just ask your teacher if you paraphrased the content well enough BEFORE you turn in the assignment. Example:

“Mr. Renfro, this is what I read:  ABcDEFG HijKLMNO.  And is what I wrote: QRSTuv WxZYBwA.  Did I paraphrase that well enough?”

“Kermit, yes, that was fine! I have no idea what any of it meant, but you definitely changed it. Now just work on the context and meaning.”