ESL Discussion Questions about Plagiarism

Instructor: Sarah Mills

Sarah is an educational freelance writer and has taught English and ESL in grades k-12 and college. She has a master's degree in both Literacy and TESOL.

In this lesson, teachers will find some discussion questions to help teach English as a second language (ESL) students about plagiarism. These questions can not only be used to teach about plagiarism but also to help students practice speaking English.

Learning About Plagiarism

As a teacher, you probably know how essential it is to talk to your students about plagiarism, or the use of another person's ideas and words as if they were your own. Without explicit training, many students may believe that the information they find in books, on television, and on the Internet is free for the taking.

ESL students' unfamiliarity with the concept of plagiarism is compounded by a language barrier. For these students, it may come as a huge relief to find that they can copy a chunk of text word-for-word and use it in their papers, rather than having to produce writing on their own. This makes it all the more necessary for them to learn about properly borrowing the work of others.

One way to make sure students thoroughly understand plagiarism is to give them discussion questions to ask one another. This strategy can also help strengthen ESL students' oral language skills.

In this next section, you'll find some questions you can use with your students.

General Questions About Plagiarism

  • What is plagiarism? Can you give an example?
  • Why do you think students plagiarize?
  • How do teachers try to prevent students from plagiarizing?
  • Are words the only thing that can be plagiarized?
  • Is plagiarism a problem in your native country?
  • Why do you think plagiarism is such a serious offense?
  • How do you prevent yourself from plagiarizing?
  • Has anyone ever plagiarized your work?
  • Can you plagiarize yourself?
  • What is a direct quote?
  • What is a paraphrase?
  • What is a reference/works cited/bibliography page?
  • Do you think access to the Internet makes plagiarism easier and more common? Why/why not?

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