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ESL Students and Plagiarism in Essay Writing

With the advent of the Internet, it is much easier to locate and replicate source material, which, in turn, has led to higher incidences of plagiarism. However, it is important to note that English as second language (ESL) students are hardly the only ones guilty of such activities. Unfortunately, there are opportunists everywhere who are looking for the easy way out. It is not fair to stereotype all offenders into one category. After all, there can be many reasons why an individual would engage in plagiarism, knowingly or not.

Consider the fact that there are websites and article services that offer to provide students with complete reports, essays, and papers on any given topic for a specified price. In many cases, students will recognize that copying or replicating an entire product, which was written by someone else, is not only dishonest but a form of cheating. However, there is less clarity when it comes to the use of excerpts from a text, not just among ESL students but those in academic and scientific circles, as well. Thus, it is essential to explore the reasons why this offense is widespread and why ESL students may be more vulnerable to infringing upon the work of others.

Contrary to popular belief, plagiarism is often not the result of laziness, looking for the easy solution, or an inability to generate a cogent narrative. It is especially true in the case of ESL students. Frequently, a student will find a portion of text or passage that conveys the information they wish to carry or expresses the concept in the precise way they envision it while researching a topic. As a result, they will embrace the passage and incorporate it into their work. However, they likely will not understand the need to paraphrase the information by deciphering it and relaying it in their own words. It could be attributed to some ESL students fearing their English skills and competency are not sufficient to express themselves appropriately in their own words.

Another possibility is that ESL students might feel pressured to complete the task under a deadline and the time allotted is not sufficient to produce 100 percent original content. Meanwhile, other pupils may believe that it is a sign of respect to the author when they use their words verbatim. Given the cultural and language barriers that frequently exist with many ESL pupils, it is likely that they will have no idea that plagiarism viewed as such a severe offense or that it carries severe penalties in America.

Regarding addressing this issue, several techniques might help curtail the prevalence of plagiarism.

Here are a few approaches to consider:

  • Make sure the students understand the importance of citing their sources and giving appropriate credit to their source material (s). In many scholastic venues, charges of plagiarism that are found to be valid will result in failure, expulsion, and termination, depending on the circumstances involved.

  • Instill in the students when and how to paraphrase, cite, and quote. It is essential to show them plenty of examples to help them understand. Moreover, most writing programs and ventures have their style guide. Adhering to the style guide issued is crucial.

  • Do not shy away from plagiarism as it relates to cultural differences. It could include discussions about personal space and physical distance, responding to a fellow student or teacher's questions, and the need for raised hands and eye contact in a classroom setting.

  • Encourage the pupils to bolster their note-taking skills and make it a requirement that they utilize their notes while crafting their drafts without referring to the original. Let them know it is only acceptable to use the original when constructing the final draft so that they can correctly include and credit quotes or phrases that will help support their arguments and concept. This is a good practice in general, for ESL students and writers of all kinds.

  • Emphasize that the process is more important than the result. Case in point; consider rewarding the creator of an original piece of work with a higher grade than a more eloquent product plagiarized. Honestly, this one seems a given and should go without saying.

    As outlined in this article, while the Internet has introduced the world to many opportunities, it has also made the global community more vulnerable to certain threats, such as exposure of personal data and the ability to locate and replicate source material. As a result, it is harder than ever to safeguard your creative endeavors from plagiarism, especially for It is important to note that ESL students, scholars, scientists, and others from various venues can be guilty of such offenses.

    However, it is rarely done out of malice, and there are several reasons why an individual might engage in these activities.

    Now it's time for a grammar exercise:

    Consider the fact there are websites and article services...

    Students will recognize copying or replicating an entire product, was written by someone else, is not only dishonest but a form of cheating.

    There is less clarity it comes to the use of excerpts from a text...

    Other pupils may believe it is a sign of respect to the author they use their words verbatim.

    It is likely they will have no idea plagiarism viewed as such a severe offense or it carries severe penalties in America.

  • Return to ESL's English class list.