A Primer in Plagiarism

By now you’ve heard the story of how out-of-work journalist, Jarrett Hill, was the first to discover that Melania Trump’s RNC speech ‘borrowed’ heavily from first lady Michelle Obama’s speech to the DNC in 2008. Many of us were introduced to plagiarism as the media used the word to describe what Hill discovered. The website Plagiarism.org offers extensive information on the topic, but we’re going to provide you with a primer below.

What is plagiarism?

According to Merriam-Webster online, plagiarism means “the act of using another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to that person: the act of plagiarizing something.”

Why is it punishable by law?

Plagiarism is an act of fraud. When you steal or lift passages of information or written content from someone without their permission and fail to cite that it is their work, it is fraud. You are passing something off as your own.

Plagiarism.org states the following:


  • turning in someone else’s work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on “fair use” rules)

Why is plagiarism important?

Plagiarism is stealing. Plagiarism can be costly. Plagiarism is lazy work. Yes, plagiarism can be inadvertent, but thankfully there are sites like WriteCheck.com and Grammarly.com that can help writers avoid committing the act of plagiarism.

Hope this primer helps. We’ve included links and the proper attribution to avoid plagiarism too. In fact, this information is posted on Plagiarism.org’s site.


In the interest of disseminating this information as widely as possible, plagiarism.org grants all reprint and usage requests without the need to obtain any further permission as long as the URL of the original article/information is cited.

Plagiarism.org does not permit the creation of derivative works based on site content. 

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