Copycats beware

Older boy sneakily looking at phone during an exam

At a glance

  • Copying is called plagiarising.
  • Plagiarising is when someone uses another's original work and pretends it's their own.
  • Kids must acknowledge the ideas of others when they use them in projects, assignments and assessments.
  • Sometimes plagiarism is intentional cheating, however, it can happen when your child doesn't know how to properly reference the work of others or if they're rushing their work.
  • Talk to your child about being honest and ethical in their work and ensure they know how to acknowledge their sources.

When kids copy, or plagiarise, someone else's original work and pass it off as their own, they're being dishonest, unethical and, in fact, they're cheating.

Your child must acknowledge the ideas of others when they use them in projects, assignments and assessments because:

  • authors own their words and ideas
  • plagiarism prevents kids developing important skills and knowledge
  • there can be penalties, which can include reduced or zero marks for exams, projects and practical works.

Why does plagiarism happen?

Sometimes plagiarism is outright and intentional cheating. Sometimes, however, it can happen when your child doesn't know how to properly reference the work of others, or they do not understand the seriousness of plagiarism. It can happen when kids haven't left enough time to do the work and they take shortcuts such as using their classmate's work or cutting and pasting other sources. It can also happen when kids are trying to achieve unrealistic academic goals.

Your child must acknowledge the ideas of others when they use them in projects, assignments and assessments.

How is plagiarism detected?

  • Plagiarism is often obvious. Different writing styles in an assessment task are a sure sign of plagiarism.
  • Teachers check reference lists with those sourced in your child's work.
  • Plagiarism is obvious when two projects or assignments submitted are either identical or very similar to each other.
  • Teachers can check your child's work using plagiarism detection software, such as Turnitin.
  • If a reference list and citations do not appear, particularly in senior high school assessments, markers may suspect plagiarism.

Three handy hints to ensure your child doesn't plagiarise

  1. Talk to your child about being honest and ethical in their work and ensure they know how to acknowledge their sources – including information gathered from websites.
  2. Your child's teacher can tell them exactly how they would like projects and assignments referenced.
  3. Remind your child to be organised with their time so they don't resort to cutting and pasting others' work when they're under pressure.

For more on plagiarism see the NSW Board of Studies' HSC: All My Own Work and the parent HSC advice pamphlet.


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