What Is “Half-copy” Plagiarism? Why It Matters? How Some Technologies Can Help Stop It?

This webpage provides:

§         What Is “Half-copy” Plagiarism?

§         Why “Half-copy” Plagiarism Matters

§         Why Technology Can Help with Plagiarism and “Half-copy” Plagiarism from Textbooks and Common Reference Works


What Is “Half-copy” Plagiarism?

The college English Department has chosen for all students to use The Bedford Handbook. This handbook defines “half-copy” plagiarism in this way:

You commit plagiarism if you half-copy the author’s sentences—either by mixing the author’s phrases with your own without using quotation marks or by plugging your own synonyms into the author’s sentence structure.


The first paraphrase of the following source [referring to the example in the handbook] is plagiarized—even though the source is cited—because too much of its language is borrowed from the original. The underlined strings of words have been copied exactly (without quotation marks). In addition, the writer has closely followed the sentence structure of the original source, merely making a few substitutions (such as Fifty percent for Half and angered and perhaps frightened for enraged and perhaps terrified).

Page 692 of the 8th edition of The Bedford Handbook

Why “Half-copy” Plagiarism Matters

These things are examples of “half-copy” plagiarism that students do very frequently: 


These things are also:



Grab and Muck

A student gave the best definition of their process of fake reading and fake writing. When asked how she writes, she said, “I grab a bunch of words and I muck them up.”


They create a fake product:

  • That they think is real
  • That they think that teachers want



Why Technology Can Help with Plagiarism and “Half-copy” Plagiarism from Textbooks and Common Reference Works

In most cases, it is easy to catch—and prove—plagiarism of text on the Internet. Search engines made the Internet a database. Our expectation was that plagiarism checkers would not catch plagiarism of a textbook or of a common reference work because the owners of these sources did not place them in the database. To test that, we created a file containing paragraphs written by several students who had plagiarized from our college textbook.


A colleague ran the file through two plagiarism checkers, with one result being as I expected and one being a surprise. With the file submitted to:


Checking the online bookstores for a few of those schools showed they all used the same textbook that our department had chosen.


Why the Difference in TurnItIn.com?

TurnItIn.com’s database indirectly includes textbooks and common reference books. How? BecauseTurnItIn.com’ collects student papers and compares them to other student’s papers. In other words, the plagiarizing students entered the phrases from those textbooks into TurnitIn.com’s database.



WCJC Department:

History – Dr. Bibus

Contact Information:

281.239.1577 or cjb_classes@yahoo.com

Last Updated:


WCJC Home: