Is It Plagiarism? 14 Situations (APA/MLA Worksheet)

English Level:  EAP or college-level
Skill Focus: identifying plagiarism and academic dishonesty
Time Required: 20-40 minutes
File Download: is-it-plagiarism-worksheet.docx (contains APA and MLA versions)
Brief Description: In groups, students decide if a situation comprises plagiarism or not

A book with highlighting in it

This worksheet can be useful in clarifying student doubts about what exactly is or is not plagiarism. The worksheet presents scenarios and students must discuss whether they represent issues related to plagiarism or not. Note that a few situations describe academic dishonesty more than plagiarism per se.

Encourage your students to have a real discussion of each scenario, i.e. present reasons for why they believe it is or is not plagiarism, and reach a group consensus. Afterward, take up the answers as a class.

Note to teachers: I've purposefully put difficult situations on the worksheet. If you don't want to have to deal with discussing them, then delete those situations.

Is It Plagiarism? Worksheet Preview

In groups, discuss the below scenarios and decide whether they describe plagiarism or not.

  1. A student has paraphrased all ideas from research sources and included a References page in his essay but forgot to include in-text citations.


  1. A student submits an essay that he wrote for a previous course.


  1. A student submits a report. In it, he quotes or paraphrases ideas that he read in other sources, cites them, and includes them on his References page.


  1. A student delivers a presentation using PowerPoint. Her slides do not include citations, but the sources she used are listed at the end on her References slide.


  1. A student gets help with her essay from a tutor. The tutor rewrites several paragraphs so the student can improve his grade.


  1. A student writes her essay in her native language of Mandarin. She then uses an online translator to translate it into English.


  1. A student includes sentences from other sources in her essay, but only changed a few of the words using synonyms. She includes citations and a References page.


  1. A student records a presentation at home. In her speech, she reads sections from a webpage. She then describes her own research. She does not include citations or a Reference page.


  1. A tutor highlights some grammar and vocabulary mistakes in a student’s essay and explains how to fix them. The student then makes the corrections.


  1. A student orders a paper online. She receives an original essay on her topic with citations and a References page. She pays for the essay with her own money.


  1. A student paraphrases ideas and cites his sources in his essay, but in his rush to submit before the deadline, he forgets the References page.


  1. A student is required to use five sources in her essay, but she only uses four. She adds a citation to an unrelated author in her final paragraph to meet the assignment requirements.


  1. In their presentation, a group of students discusses their survey about social media influencers. Their slides contain several images of popular influencers. They do not include citations or a References page.


  1. A student with a low level of English uses software that automatically corrects the grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors in her writing. She submits her essay and receives a high grade.
Possible Answers
  1. Plagiarism (no citations means you cannot judge which ideas are from the student and which are taken from research sources)
  2. Academic Dishonesty (arguably plagiarism as well)
  3. Okay
  4. Plagiarism for the same reasons as #1. The rules of academic integrity are the same for slides as they are for essays.
  5. Plagiarism/Academic Dishonesty. The content of the essay comes from someone else (the tutor), who has not been cited or Referenced.
  6. If it is a course that assesses English (e.g. grammar and vocabulary) in the rubric, then this would be academic dishonesty as a program is producing the language, not the student. If the course does not assess language directly, then check with the instructor.
  7. Plagiarism. This is patchwriting, which is a form of plagiarism. Students should use their own sentence structures and words.
  8. Plagiarism.
  9. Okay.
  10. Academic Dishonesty
  11. Plagiarism. It is (almost) impossible to find out what source the citations refer to.
  12. Academic Dishonesty
  13. Plagiarism. Assuming the images aren't from the public domain, they are someone's intellectual property.
  14. If it is a course that assesses English (e.g. grammar and vocabulary) in the rubric, then this would be academic dishonesty as a program is producing the language, not the student. If the course does not assess language directly, then check with the instructor.

I hope you find this worksheet helpful for your college writing classes. If you find a mistake or have a question, please leave a comment below.

Note that this worksheet was inspired by an exercise on academic integrity found on pages 99-100 in Advance in Academic Writing 2, written by Steve Marshall and published by Pearson.

-- Worksheet written by Matthew Barton (copyright), Creator of

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