Plagiarism in High School

High School Plagiarism: Busted! Stop the copy-paste and teach citation skills! Solutions for teachers and students.

Now more than ever, plagiarism is running rampant in high schools. Every day, students are flocking to apps like ChatGPT, Google Gemini, Claude and others, hurriedly churning out comparative essays, math problems and even code. But what’s behind the rise in plagiarism and what can be done about it? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at plagiarism in high school and how it can be addressed in the digital age. 

What is Plagiarism and Why Does It Matter?

Plagiarism involves using someone else’s work without proper attribution or presenting them as your own original work. Plagiarism can extend from simply copying and pasting text verbatim to paraphrasing someone else’s ideas. 

Plagiarism matters because at its core, it’s dishonest and deceptive. To help prevent this and raise students with integrity and honesty, high schools often have very strict policies against plagiarism. This can lead to serious consequences for students who plagiarize. Consequences can include a failing grade, suspension and even expulsion in the more serious cases of plagiarism. 

Plagiarism also has serious consequences on a student’s intellectual development. When a student plagiarizes, they miss out on the process of learning, such as critical thinking or problem solving. In school is where we learn to take in and understand information and make actionable decisions. By copying someone else’s work, students shortcut that process and fail to learn these valuable skills. 

The Most Common Forms of Plagiarism in High School

Plagiarism in high school can take several forms. These cases of plagiarism can include everything from simple oversights to outright cheating. Here are some of the most common types: 

Copy-Pasting Directly: This is one of the most straightforward forms of plagiarism where students copy text word-for-word from a source without using quotation marks or giving proper credit to the original author.

Paraphrasing Without Citing: Students may rewrite phrases or sentences from a source but keep the original structure and ideas without giving proper credit. This also counts as plagiarism, even though they wrote it “in their own words”. It’s also one of the most difficult forms of plagiarism to uncover.

Using Homework Helpers or Essay Mills: Some students submit work done by someone else as their own, such as essays purchased from online platforms that provide academic papers.

Recycling Own Work (Self-Plagiarism): Students might submit the same piece of work in multiple classes or assignments without permission from their teachers. Although it’s their own work, it’s considered unethical because each assignment is supposed to be a unique effort.

Incorrect Citation: This includes errors in citation or bibliography that mislead about the source’s identity, or simply failing to provide enough information for a reader to find the original source. While sometimes accidental, it can still be classified as plagiarism if it misrepresents the origin of information.

Using Media Without Attribution: This involves using images, videos, or audio without attribution or beyond the terms of fair use. Even multimedia elements need to be cited properly in school projects.

Plagiarism in the Digital Age

Of course, we cannot cover plagiarism in high school without mentioning how much the digital age has contributed to it. With such unprecedented access to resources and the use of technology at our fingertips, understandably how students engage with information has changed. 

Today, students have a wealth of data at their fingertips through search engines, online databases, and social media platforms. This ease of access can be a double-edged sword however; while there are numerous resources available and research can be conducted more easily, it also makes it temptingly easy to copy and paste information. Many students may commit plagiarism unintentionally simply because they are unaware of how to correctly cite online sources or because they underestimate the importance of originality in the digital content they come across. 

What’s more, the digital age has introduced new tools that can both perpetrate and detect plagiarism. Software such as Turnitin and Grammarly's plagiarism checker are widely used by educators to catch instances of plagiarism in students' work. These tools compare submissions against a vast database of published works and previously submitted papers, highlighting any duplicate content. 

On the other hand, there are also numerous websites that offer pre-written essays or services that can generate text on demand, like ChatGPT or Claude, which can tempt students to bypass the learning process altogether. This environment requires a more nuanced understanding of academic integrity from both students and educators. Schools need to emphasize digital literacy and ethics as much as they focus on traditional academic skills, teaching students not only how to use digital tools effectively but also how to use them ethically.

What are the Consequences of Plagiarism in High School? 

The consequences of plagiarism in high school can vary and range from grade penalties to expulsion or even legal action. Most commonly, the immediate consequence of plagiarism is disciplinary action. Depending on the severity and the school’s policy, the student may receive a failing grade on the assignment or at worst, they may fail the course. The latter is especially true if the student habitually submits plagiarized work. Beyond a failing grade, students who plagiarize also damage the trust that has been cultivated between them and their teacher or their fellow students. Plagiarism can break that trust and have lasting consequences even after the incident has occurred. 

Plagiarism also has an impact on a student’s learning. By copying other people’s work, they avoid the educational experience of learning things like critical thinking, writing and research skills. This comes back to bite them in later assignments or even higher educational pursuits where these types of skills are a must. 

When plagiarism has been discovered, high schools often keep a record of it. Depending on the severity, it may prevent the students from applying to honors programs, applying for scholarships or it may even harm their college application process. Many college admissions processes ask about disciplinary history. 

In the worst case scenario, in cases where plagiarism uses copyrighted material, the student (and by extension their parents and the school) may potentially face legal actions or financial liabilities. For these reasons, it’s vital that educators address the importance of academic integrity with students, as well as teach proper research and citation skills from the start. 

How Can Teachers Detect Plagiarism with Digital Tools?

As noted above, the expanse of digital information and learning has also equipped teachers with better plagiarism detection tools. These tools are a must in teaching and enforcing academic honesty. They not only deter plagiarism by letting students know that their work will be checked for originality, but they also detect and flag instances of it for review by the instructor. 

Originality.AI is a fantastic plagiarism detection tool in this regard. It scans the text submitted by a user and compares it against a comprehensive database of online sources. These sources include web pages, academic papers and other publicly-accessible documents. The tool is sophisticated enough to check for exact matches as well as closely paraphrased content. 

Originality.AI uses advanced algorithms that can detect patterns in text that may indicate plagiarism. These algorithms are not just looking for verbatim matches but variations and paraphrasing as well. Once the analysis is done, Originality.AI provides a detailed report that highlights sections of the text that have similarities with other sources. It also includes the percentage of text that is unoriginal, along with links to relevant sources that the content may have been copied from. 

What makes Originality.AI go beyond your ordinary plagiarism detection program, like Grammarly or Turnitin, is its AI content detection. It also has the option when checking for plagiarism, to also check to see if content has been generated by AI. Given the rise of very human-like text generators like ChatGPT, Claude and Google Gemini, Originality.AI is well-poised to analyze the style and complexity of text in order to determine whether or not it was potentially AI-written. 

Keep in mind that no plagiarism tool, online or offline, is 100% accurate all of the time. It’s possible that student writing may be flagged as plagiarized when the resulting sources have nothing in common with it. It’s also possible that writing may be flagged as AI-written particularly if it’s highly technical. It’s up to the educator to use the resources at their disposal and their knowledge of the student and their work to make the determination on an individual  basis. Be sure to see our article on false positives for more information on this phenomenon. 

To learn more or to get started with Originality.AI, create an account today and try it for yourself. With affordable monthly plans, team-wide collaboration options or pay-as-you-go plans, Originality.AI makes it easy to ensure that your students’ work is interesting, engaging and most importantly, original.

Sherice Jacob

Plagiarism Expert Sherice Jacob brings over 20 years of experience to digital marketing as a copywriter and content creator. With a finger on the pulse of AI and its developments, she works extensively with to help businesses and publishers get the best returns from their Content.

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