Examples of Plagiarism


1. Examples of Plagiarism

The following examples provide a range of plagiarism from verbatim copying to thorough paraphrasing. The examples and comments offer clear guidance about how a source may be used and when a source must be cited.

Original source:

From: 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 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.

1. Example of 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 theatre. 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: 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. 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.

2. Example of lifting selected passages and phrases without proper acknowledgement (lifted passages are underlined):

Almost all of Shakespeare's Hamlet can be understood as a play about acting and the theatre. 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: 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 only used Alvin Kernan's phrase "high heroic terms" without properly quoting and acknowledging its source, the writer would have plagiarized.

3. Example of 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 theatre. 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: Almost nothing of Alvin 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. Although it would no longer be necessary to use quotation marks, it would absolutely be necessary to place a citation at the end of this paragraph to acknowledge that the content is not original. Better still would be to acknowledge the author in the text by adding a second sentence such as"Alvin Kernan provides several examples from the play where these themes become more obvious"and then citing the source at the end of the paragraph. In the case where the writer did not try to paraphrase the source's sentences quite so closely, but borrowed the main idea and examples from Kernan's book, an acknowledgment would still be necessary.

- From Princeton University's Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, 1998 edition (pp. 63-69). Full Text Online at http://www.princeton.edu:80/~compub/pubs/rrr/63-69.htm



2. Examples of Plagiarism



FOLLOWING are several typical examples of plagiarized work. The plagiarizer has used words or ideas taken from the following two paragraphs that appear in Caroline Spurgeon's critical work, Shakespeare's Imagery:


The main image in Othello is that of animals in action, preying upon one another, mischievous, lascivious, cruel or suffering, and through these, the general sense of pain and unpleasantness is much increased and kept constantly before us.

More than half the animal images in the play are Iago's, and all these are contemptuous or repellent: a plague of flies, a quarrelsome dog, the recurrent image of bird-snaring, leading asses by the nose, a spider catching a fly, beating an offenceless dog, wild cats, wolves, goats and monkeys. (Caroline F. E. Spurgeon, Shakespeare's Imagery (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1935), p. 335).

Plagiarism by unacknowledged verbatim quotation:


The majority of the animal images in the play are Iago's, and all of these are contemptuous or repellent. He refers to a plague of flies, a quarrelsome dog, bird-snaring, leading asses by the nose, a spider catching a fly, beating an offenceless dog, wild cats, goats and monkeys. Through these images the general sense of pain and unpleasantness is increased and kept constantly before us.

Note that this paragraph duplicates Spurgeon's passage with only slight rearrangement and restatement, and without using appropriate quotation marks or providing a citation at the end.

Plagiarism by mosaic or mixing paraphrase and unacknowledged quotation:


I believe that the main image in Shakespeare's tragedy, Othello, is that of animals. These creatures are constantly in action, preying upon one another, and they are depicted as mischievous, wanton, cruel or suffering. By Shakespeare's ingenious use of these animal images, the general sense of pain and unpleasantness that pervades the entire story is much increased and kept constantly before the reader.

Note how in this case the plagiarist intermingles his or her own original writing with unmarked, uncited excerpts and phrases drawn directly from Spurgeon.

Plagiarism by unacknowledged paraphrase and/or use of ideas:


In Othello, Shakespeare makes frequent use of animal imagery. The specific images he uses are generally distasteful and convey to the reader a constant impression of conflict and misery.

Note that although this excerpt does not make literal use of Spurgeon's paragraphs, it nevertheless draws its ideas from them without any acknowledgment and thus constitutes an act of plagiarism on a par with the two preceding examples.

- From Dartmouth College's E-text on Sources prepared for Darmouth College by the Committee on Sources, Gary Johnson and Richard Kremer, Co-Chairs, 1998 at at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~sources/about/what.html#verbatim



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August 2, 1999

USEM 27B

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