Examples of Plagiarism

The examples below demonstrate a few varieties of textual plagiarism, from verbatim copying to thorough paraphrasing. The comments that follow the examples offer guidance about how a source may be used and when a source must be cited. (These examples can also be found in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities.)

Text example 1

Original source (text)

Alvin Kernan, The Playwright as Magician. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979. pp. 102–103.

From time to time this submerged or latent theater in becomes almost overt. It is close to the surface in Hamlet’s pretense of madness, the “antic disposition” he puts on to protect himself and prevent his antagonists from plucking out the heart of his mystery. It is even closer to the surface when Hamlet enters his mother’s room and holds up, side by side, the pictures of the two kings, Old Hamlet and Claudius, and proceeds to describe for her the true nature of the choice she has made, presenting truth by means of a show. Similarly, when he leaps into the open grave at Ophelia’s funeral, ranting in high heroic terms, he is acting out for Laertes, and perhaps for himself as well, the folly of excessive, melodramatic expressions of grief.

Verbatim plagiarism, or unacknowledged direct quotation (lifted passages are underlined)

Almost all of Shakespeare’s Hamlet can be understood as a play about acting and the theater. For example, there is Hamlet’s pretense of madness, the “antic disposition” that he puts on to protect himself and prevent his antagonists from plucking out the heart of his mystery. When Hamlet enters his mother’s room, he holds up, side by side, the pictures of the two kings, Old Hamlet and Claudius, and proceeds to describe for her the true nature of the choice she has made, presenting truth by means of a show. Similarly, when he leaps into the open grave at Ophelia’s funeral, ranting in high heroic terms, he is acting out for Laertes, and perhaps for himself as well, the folly of excessive, melodramatic expressions of grief.

Comment for example I

Aside from an opening sentence loosely adapted from the original and reworded more simply, this entire passage is taken almost word-for-word from the source. The few small alterations of the source do not relieve the writer of the responsibility to attribute these words to their original author, Alvin Kernan. A passage from a source may be worth quoting at length if it makes a point precisely or elegantly. In such cases, copy the passage exactly, place it in quotation marks, and cite the author.

Text example 2

Original source (text)

From time to time this submerged or latent theater in Hamlet becomes almost overt. It is close to the surface in Hamlet’s pretense of madness, the “antic disposition” he puts on to protect himself and prevent his antagonists from plucking out the heart of his mystery. It is even closer to the surface when Hamlet enters his mother’s room and holds up, side by side, the pictures of the two kings, Old Hamlet and Claudius, and proceeds to describe for her the true nature of the choice she has made, presenting truth by means of a show. Similarly, when he leaps into the open grave at Ophelia’s funeral, ranting in high heroic terms, he is acting out for Laertes, and perhaps for himself as well, the folly of excessive, melodramatic expressions of grief.

Lifting selected passages and phrases without proper acknowledgment (lifted passages are underlined)

Almost all of Shakespeare’s Hamlet can be understood as a play about acting and the theater. For example, in Act 1, Hamlet adopts a pretense of madness that he uses to protect himself and prevent his antagonists from discovering his mission to revenge his father’s murder. He also presents truth by means of a show when he compares the portraits of Gertrude’s two husbands in order to describe for her the true nature of the choice she has made. And when he leaps in Ophelia’s open grave ranting in high heroic terms, Hamlet is acting out the folly of excessive, melodramatic expressions of grief.

Comment for example 2

This passage, in content and structure, is taken wholesale from the source. Although the writer has rewritten much of the paragraph, and fewer phrases are lifted verbatim from the source, this is a clear example of plagiarism. Inserting even short phrases from the source into a new sentence still requires placing quotations around the borrowed words and citing the author. If even one phrase is good enough to borrow, it must be properly set off by quotation marks. In the case above, if the writer had rewritten the entire paragraph and used only Alvin Kernan’s phrase “high heroic terms” without properly quoting and acknowledging its source, the writer would have plagiarized.

Text example 3

Original source (text)

From time to time this submerged or latent theater in Hamlet becomes almost overt. It is close to the surface in Hamlet’s pretense of madness, the “antic disposition” he puts on to protect himself and prevent his antagonists from plucking out the heart of his mystery. It is even closer to the surface when Hamlet enters his mother’s room and holds up, side by side, the pictures of the two kings, Old Hamlet and Claudius, and proceeds to describe for her the true nature of the choice she has made, presenting truth by means of a show. Similarly, when he leaps into the open grave at Ophelia’s funeral, ranting in high heroic terms, he is acting out for Laertes, and perhaps for himself as well, the folly of excessive, melodramatic expressions of grief.

Paraphrasing the text while maintaining the basic paragraph and sentence structure

Almost all of Shakespeare’s Hamlet can be understood as a play about acting and the theater. For example, in Act 1, Hamlet pretends to be insane in order to make sure his enemies do not discover his mission to revenge his father’s murder. The theme is even more obvious when Hamlet compares the pictures of his mother’s two husbands to show her what a bad choice she has made, using their images to reveal the truth. Also, when he jumps into Ophelia’s grave, hurling his challenge to Laertes, Hamlet demonstrates the foolishness of exaggerated expressions of emotion.

Comment for example 3

Almost nothing of Kernan’s original language remains in this rewritten paragraph. However, the key idea, the choice and order of the examples, and even the basic structure of the original sentences are all taken from the source. This is another clear example of plagiarism. When paraphrasing, it’s absolutely necessary (1) to use your own words and structure, and (2) to place a citation at the end of the paraphrase to acknowledge that the content is not original.

A note on plagiarism in computer programs:

The organization of courses involving computer programming varies throughout the University. In many courses, you will work with other students in pairs or in larger groups. In those cases where individual programs are submitted based on work involving collaboration, you must acknowledge the extent of the collaboration when the program is submitted. Expectations for citing the use of code in completing a computer programming assignment may vary from course to course, so it is particularly important for you to check with the faculty member in charge of the course on citation policies when completing programming assignments.