Why I Make a Big Deal about “Half-Copy” Plagiarism and “Patchwriting”[1]


What are “half-copy” plagiarism and “patchwriting”?

You will understand best by looking at the example on page 746 of The Bedford Handbook. It shows:

·        The original text written by an author (a historian)

·        The student’s taking those words of the author’s and just moving them around passively
- within the author’s sentence structure
- with a few words swapped for what the student considers a synonym


The two terms are both the same and different:

·        Both terms “half-copy” plagiarism and “patchwriting” are the same in that work done in an example like the one on 746 of The Bedford Handbook is accurately labeled as half-way to plagiarism

·        The term “patchwriting” seems more to deal with intent—that the student thought it was OK to do and the professor (or boss) would approve.
While I can accept students’ good intentions and misunderstanding of this requirement, I also know that your future professors (and bosses) will not accept this work.
So please read the rest of this.



What are the 2 reasons that I make a big deal about this?

I make a big deal about “half-copy” plagiarism and “patchwriting” for two reasons that have consequences on your future:

1.      Students who practice “half-copy” plagiarism or “patchwriting” almost always misread and have factual errors. These students create a fake product that any expert in the field will instantly know is false—and your bosses and your upper level professors will be experts in their fields.

Think about it:

·        Why keep practicing, as a freshman, a method that leads you to have factual errors?

·        Why keep practicing, as a freshman, a method that will guarantee that you will not succeed in upper level courses (or on a job)?

2.      Professors (and bosses) who see work that is “half-copy” plagiarism consider students (or employees) as either cheating or lazy (and not worth a paycheck).

Think about it:

·        What major professor would write a reference for a student who submitted “half-copy” plagiarism?

·        What job and what business would pay someone to move some words around?


What are the 2 experiences I have had that motivate me to make a big deal about this?

I also make a big deal about “half-copy” plagiarism and “patchwriting” because of my experience with students I care about:

My experience is that a few community college students do this because their experience is that “half-copy” plagiarism is:

·        Easy for students to do

·        Time-consuming for professors to prove
Caution: With the method I use for your work and my grading, it is not time-consuming to prove. The rubric used for grading means that I record 0s for this kind of work.

My experience is that most community college students do this because of misunderstandings:

·        About how “half-copy” plagiarism lowers the quality of their work to the point that no one would pay for it.

·        About what employers and professors will expect.

The writing assignments in this course are mean to help you learn history and to offer you two opportunities:

1.      If we have a different understanding of the required source,

·        You can prove the problem to yourself by comparing your source and your writing.

·        If I am wrong, you can show me.

2.      If you want, you can develop alternative methods for how you work. You can choose your habits so they match your plans for your future.

FYI: In this course, you do not have to be fancy in your writing. You do have to be accurate.



Copyright C. J. Bibus, Ed.D. 2003-2020



WCJC Department:

History – Dr. Bibus

Contact Information:

281.239.1577 or bibusc@wcjc.edu

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[1] The quoted terms are explained on page 746 in the ninth edition of The Bedford Handbook by Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers.