Plagiarism: Is there literary theft in your homeschool?

by | Feb 10, 2020 | Essays & Research Papers, High school

You sit down to grade your teen’s latest essay. As you read, it occurs to you that the information seems familiar—so familiar, in fact, that you recognize it as the text from an online article you yourself printed out as a suggested resource. When you look up the article and compare it with your child’s paper, you’re shocked to discover they’re identical.

Yes, mama … there’s plagiarism in your homeschool.

What Is Plagiarism?

The term plagiarism might be relatively new to your high schoolers, but cheating certainly isn’t! When it comes to writing, especially in a formal setting, these two words actually mean the same thing. So make sure the kids understand what plagiarism looks like. True, some students will be tempted to out-and-out cheat. But even teens with the best intentions can plagiarize without meaning to.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines plagiarizing as:

  1. Stealing and passing off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own.
  2. Using (another’s production) without crediting the source.
  3. Committing literary theft.
  4. Presenting as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

What Does Plagiarism Look Like in Your Homeschool?

There are several ways plagiarism can happen in your homeschool. Whether the paper is for a co-op class or a dual-credit college course, or it’s simply a personal homeschool assignment, a student can:

  • Include someone else’s quotes, passages, paragraphs, or other excerpts in his paper but fail to give proper credit or cite the source.
  • Ask a friend or sibling to write a paper for him.
  • Find an essay or research paper online and copy it.
  • Buy a paper from an online essay-writing service. (Even though these “essay mills” claim to write original papers, if your teen puts his name on it and calls it his own, it’s plagiarism.)

Take a Stand on Plagiarism in Your Homeschool

Do you homeschool one high schooler? Tutor several teens together? Teach a creative writing class to a group of homeschoolers? Regardless, talk with your students about plagiarism—including implications and consequences. Here’s an example:

Plagiarism is the illegitimate use of another person’s words and/or ideas without giving proper credit to the original source. Copying someone else’s work and calling it your own is a serious offense that will not be tolerated and will have significant consequences.

All work done for this class must be your own original composition. When writing, you’ll be required to properly cite any source you use—published or unpublished, from a printed source such as a book, or from an online source. Failure to do so means you’ll get an automatic “F” (or a grade of zero) for the assignment.

Reinforce the Rules

Stand firm regarding plagiarism. In any other class setting—whether a public or private high school, college, or even the workplace—plagiarizing an essay to the extent that our hypothetical student has done will result in an instant F on the assignment, disenrollment from the class, and/or institutional disciplinary measures.

Because most educational institutions have a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism, submitting a plagiarized essay could, at best, result in a lower grade, or at worst, cost students a scholarship or expulsion over something they may have thought was “no big deal.”

It’s so important to drill into your teens that trying to save a few hours’ worth of work by cutting and pasting a two-page essay from the Internet is just not worth the consequences.

WriteShop II Student Workbook - Advanced descriptive narration, persuasive writing, and 5-paragraph essays

If you need extra help getting started with teaching 5-paragraph essays and persuasive writing, WriteShop II offers a solid introduction to opinion writing, definition essays, compare and contrast essays, and timed essays.


  1. Valentina Vilches

    what happens if someone copies a little of the structure and sources but adding more stuff to an essay but mostly the information is from one essay? is it plagiarism?

  2. Victoria Luckie

    What do I do if I suspect someone has stolen the story idea that I have been working on since 1996/7?

    • Kim Kautzer

      Victoria: I’m sorry to say that ideas can’t be copyrighted. Hope this article is helpful in explaining the reasons why.

      • Victoria Luckie

        Thanks. The idea and basic plot was in fact written down in 1996/7. I wrote the first couple of chapters in a library and emailed them to myself some years ago. (I also screenshotted the email). I have also approached a couple of publishers and put the synopsis online on a writers forum for a course I’ve been doing with New York Book Editors (Query Mastery) last year.

        • Kim Kautzer

          Victoria: General ideas, plot lines, etc. can’t be protected by copyright. Even if someone runs with your synopsis, it’s not a violation of copyright. What someone cannot do, though, is use your exact words. That’s why written works are copyrighted. Now, if someone has plagiarized your first two chapters, that’s another thing altogether. But it’s a sad truth that most aspiring authors don’t have the financial means to pursue the matter in a court of law.

          I hope you decide to pursue your book! It sounds like a dream of yours, and regardless of what the other party does with your ideas, they aren’t YOU. Your words, your style, your voice, your characters, your plot twists, your settings will make it YOURS, and no one else’s. Best of luck!

  3. 209 Valley Jobs

    When I was teaching for a while I always taught my students that Plagiarism was the #1 thing you did not want to do in school – especially college. My father who works at a university has kicked several students out for this! Its a serious thing at the college level and I advise everyone to avoid it.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.