[0. A print version of this document can be found here.] Overview:



Plagiarism is the use of someone else’s language, ideas, information, or original material without acknowledging the source.


Examples of plagiarism:


i. Paper is downloaded from an Internet source and/or obtained from a paper mill.
ii. Paper contains part or all of the writings of another person (including another student), without citation.
iii. Paper contains passages that were cut and pasted from an Internet source, without citation. [1. Examples, definitions, and other materials in this presentation are drawn directly from Rebecca Moore Howard’s website.]

Patchwriting is copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one-for-one synonym-substitutes.[2.]


While some cases of academic dishonesty are direct plagiarisms, many are not.  They’re often patchwritings.  As our students enter into academic discourse communities, they’re expected to understand the generic norms in those disciplines.  With little to no experience or enculturation into those norms, students try to fake it, patchwriting to gain confidence in the generic expectations of different forms of academic writing.  As Pecorari notes, the difference between plagairism and patchwriting is one of intent:

The distinction between patchwriting and prototypical plagiarism is one of intent: one writer sets out to deceive; the other does not . . . . There is no reason to treat deceptive plagiarism as the default assumption. (148-9) [3. Pecorari, D. Academic Writing and Plagiarism: A Linguistic Analysis. Continuum, 2008. Print.]


As teachers, we can assist students in this process of moving beyond patchwriting to ethical source use by teaching critical reading and writing strategies like summary and synthesis.


Class Activities: 

5 Step Critical Reading Strategy

Claim Identification Heuristic

Rosenwasser & Stephen on Summary (from Writing Analytically)

Summary Overview Handout

Summary Activity

 Paraphrase X3 (from Rosenwasser & Stephen’s Writing Analytically)  – Great for sentence level concept building.  Can be expanded/repeated at paragraph or document level.

Synthesis Heuristic – A handout that gets students involved in the synthesis of main claims and main ideas.

User’s Guide to Drafting a Synthesis Paper – A handout that helps students visualize and make connections between claims and ideas across texts.

Rhetorical Sourcing Activity – An assignment that introduces students to the notion of rhetorical sourcing and invites them to practice the art of citation beyond the citation itself.


Useful Links:

Rebecca Moore Howard on Patchwriting (video)

Howard, Serviss & Rodrigue – Writing from Sources (article) – Preliminary results from The Citation Project showing that critical reading strategies, summary activities, and synthesis practice encourage more effective source use and less patchwriting/plagiarism.

WPA Statement on “Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism” (article) – The best practices document from the WPA on definitions of plagiarism and strategies to minimize plagiarism in your writing classes.

Rebecca Moore Howard’s (and my own) Plagiarism Policy for Syllabi (document)

Rosenwasser & Stephen – Writing Analytically – An invaluable source/activity book that introduces students to the process of academic reading, writing, and argumentation.  (WAY TOO EXPENSIVE!)



One Response to “WOU Writing In-Service: Patchwriting”

  1. Robin Reid

    I’m reviewing materials online for a plagiarism prevention Project I’m working on for my courses and university, and just wanted to complement you on the very good information and materials you have assembled here. I’ve downloaded some of them (with credit of course!), to share with my graduate students and use in my undergraduate course. Thank you!

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