Cheating and Plagiarism - Just Don't Do It !

Cheating and Plagiarism - Just Don't Do It !

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A writer has only two things to sell: his words and his ideas. If you steal either, it’s as bad as stealing any other peddler’s stock-in-trade. Unlike other peddlers, though, the writer gives you permission to use his stock-in-trade at your will as long as you point out that the stuff originally belonged to him.


Original Material, from Henry I. Christ, Hamlet with Reader’s Guide, Amsco School Publication, New York, 1970, p. 321.

The play is an eternal challenge, a lock with many keys, none of which ever fits perfectly. Every interpretation presents just a portion of the possibilities. Every new version opens up new vistas, without limiting further experimentation. Every generation comes, looks, and studies the play, but never comes up with all the answers.


Below are three student attempts to use Henry Christ’s material.

Student Version A (plagiarized):

The play Hamlet is like a lock with many keys, none of them fitting perfectly but each of them giving a part of the possibilities. Every new interpretation opens new possibilities but without stopping new interpretations. New readers study the play but never come up with all the answers.


Student Version A has rearranged some of Christ’s ideas and has substituted some words for others, but by no means could this writing be called the student’s own writing. He has stolen all of Christ’s ideas and some of his words.

Student Version B (plagiarized):

Henry Christ points out that the play is like a lock with many keys. Each key presents just a portion of the possibilities. Every new version opens up new vistas, without stopping new interpretations. Every generation studies the play, but never comes up with all relevant answers (Christ, 321).


This student has included a citation at the end and an introduction at the beginning, but the lack of quotation marks anywhere tells the reader that only the ideas were taken from Christ. That’s not true: some words were also taken from Christ.

Student Version C (not plagiarized):

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MLA Citation:
"Cheating and Plagiarism - Just Don't Do It !." 22 Jan 2020

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Henry Christ points out that the play is "like a lock with many keys, none of which ever fits perfectly." New readers see new possibilities, opening "new vistas," but no generation ever has all the answers (Christ, 321).


This version is an honest use of scholarly material. Notice that it contains the three elements necessary for any honest use:

An introduction to the summary

An end citation

Quotation marks to point out which parts of the summary are not summarized but quoted. 

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