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Teaching Plagiarism Avoidance Using Music Pitfalls

Valued Contributor

Writing instructors have various ways to teach academic honesty and avoiding plagiarism. In addition to using textbook examples, I started using examples from music several semesters ago. Unfortunately, these examples are widespread. Here's a recent, short article on Ed Sheeran: Ed Sheeran’s Plagiarism Problems Are Getting Worse: Latest One Exposes Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Having students read and discuss this is one way for them to see larger implications of plagiarism and to see that following standards of honesty when we create any written work matters.


  • What examples do you use for teaching plagiarism?
  • Have you had particular success with helping your students understand this?


Share your resources and ideas on this thread.


--Audrey Wick, Blinn College


Interesting way to approach a discussion on plagiarism.  I followed the link to the page you provided above and there I was able to find the names of two songs that the articles points out are very, very similar.


Here's the first 19 seconds of Jasmine Rae's song "When I Found You":



And here's the first 24 seconds of Ed Sheeran's The Rest of Our Life":



It's hard NOT to hear the similarities.  Let me ask you this @Audrey_Wick: after the class has heard both samples of music, how do you relate this to the writing they're going to be doing in your class?

Valued Contributor


Thank you for continuing this conversation. You are right: examples of plagiarized content are [unfortunately] not hard to find. Using examples from music--especially if there has been a legal battle--can be a powerful way for students to understand real-world implications of classroom concepts of original work, intellectual property, and appropriate attribution.


Usually students read about plagiarism in their textbook before we discuss it in class. Then, I try to contextualize through examples. Ultimately, we'll have a discussion about  what constitutes original work, and that will eventually lead into a discussion of how to "borrow" the words and ideas of others. Then, we'll discuss skills of direct quotation and paraphrasing as they relate. On a larger scale, we'll then work toward crafting papers/projects and using appropriate attribution in regard to source material.

That's a quick overview, but I hope it provides ideas for other instructors. I'm always open to hearing additional techniques and learning what works in others' classrooms, so I look forward to more conversation on this thread.