Shmoop's Take On Plagiarism

We hope that Shmoop inspires and excites students to think deeply for themselves. Plagiarism, or taking another's ideas without giving credit, undermines the original author and the person who plagiarizes.

High schools and universities treat plagiarism harshly. Students can be expelled, suspended, given academic probation, or fail their classes. (See here for some examples of how plagiarism has been treated by schools.)

If plagiarism becomes exposed by the media, the public and career-related consequences can be devastating. People who plagiarize could go to jail, lose their jobs, lose their reputations, lose their publishing contracts, and more.

Our rule of thumb is: When in Doubt, Cite. Sometimes you may not know if you need to cite something you used while writing your paper. If you aren't sure, cite the source anyway. You probably will never get in trouble for citing sources too often, but there are harsh consequences for not citing enough.

What is Plagiarism?

In many cases, students are "caught" plagiarizing, but say they didn't realize they were doing it. Unfortunately, in these cases, ignorance of the rules does not protect students from the consequences. Don't let this happen to you, Shmoopsters.

Plagiarism is defined as:

to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source

to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source


Types of Plagiarism

Copying Verbatim. The first and most common form of plagiarism is copying someone's work word-for-word without citation. It's like stealing someone else's property and calling it your own.

Copying Verbatim with Citation. A second type of plagiarism is copying someone else's work word-for-word, without quotes, but including a citation. If you provide a citation for a sentence or paragraph that is copied verbatim from another source -- without the use of quotes around the copied section -- it is still considered plagiarism. Remember that your paper or assignment is supposed to represent your original ideas. If you directly copy a section of someone else's work in your paper, put it in quotes and provide a citation.

Paraphrasing. A third commonly used form of plagiarism is taking someone else's idea, rephrasing it, and calling it your own. For example:

Shmoop U.S. History says, "In the Columbian Exchange, ecology became destiny. Powerful environmental forces, understood by no one alive at the time and by very few people even today, determined who would thrive and who would die."

Paraphrasing in any of the following ways would be considered plagiarism:
  • "Ecology was destiny in the Columbian Exchange. Strong environmental forces, which no one understood then, and few understand even now, dictated who would live and who would die."

  • "In the Columbian Exchange, destiny depended entirely on ecology. The environment was a powerful force that no one understood. This ecological force determined who lived and who died."

  • "The Columbian Exchange showed us that ecology became destiny. The fates of both the living and the dead were determined by powerful environmental forces that people did not understand (and many still do not understand today)."

Again, always remember this rule of thumb when writing your papers: When in Doubt, Cite.

What is Shmoop Doing to Combat Plagiarism of Shmoop Content?

Here at Shmoop we take a firm stand against plagiarism of our content. We will provide our Shmoop content to anti-plagiarism services which enable teachers to analyze whether a student plagiarized our content. If a student plagiarizes Shmoop content, he or she will have a high probability of getting caught. Moreover, we reserve the right to terminate use and take legal action against anyone who plagiarizes Shmoop content.

Rather than plagiarize, feel free to cite Shmoop with confidence in its academic credibility. Please see our page on How to Cite Shmoop for more details.

Stay away from plagiarism, Shmoopsters -- it's just not worth it.

For more information on plagiarism, see