Friday, October 6, 2017

In the Classroom: How Infographics Can Help Students Avoid Plagiarism

My upcoming book, Pinocchio Rex and Other Tyrannosaurs, is chock full of text features.

One of my favorites is an infographic that began when I drew this very, V
ERY rough sketch and sent it to my editor.

Let’s face the facts. My drawing skills leave a lot to be desired, but this sketch was enough the give the talented folks in the HarperCollins art department an idea of what I had in mind—a grouping of visual elements that work together to show that (1) the tyrannosaur family lived on Earth for 100 million years, and (2) while the group's final members were gigantic, fearsome predators (like T. rex),  the earliest tyrannosaurs were about the same size as us.
Eventually, my sad little sketch became this amazing infographic:
It summarizes some of the book's most important ideas by drawing on information presented on many different pages. The process of conceptualizing it was similar to the process students engage in as they analyze and synthesize their research notes while preparing to write a report.

In this article, I discuss the reason students plagiarize instead of expressing ideas and information in their own words and offer some solutions to this problem.

By third grade, children know that they shouldn’t copy their sources, but they struggle to evaluate the information they've collected and make it their own. We need to offer students a variety of ways to think carefully and critically about their research notes, and infographics is one tool we can offer them.

Here's a terrific infographic that summarizes the information in my book No Monkeys, No Chocolate.

This wasn't a school assignment. The student did it on her own in her free time because she really wanted to understand the process described in the book. Wow! I'm so grateful to the librarian (Hooray for school librarians!) who introduced me to this passionate young reader.

I especially love the bookworm dialog she wrote. It perfectly captures the voice I used in the book. It also shows that she understands the function of these characters--to add humor and reinforce the ideas in the main text. In Common Core lingo, she understand my author intent.

See how powerful inforgraphics can be?

When students take the time to represent the ideas and information they've read as infographics (or other combinations of words and pictures) during their pre-writing process, they'll find their own special way of conveying the information. Instead of being tempted to plagiarize, they'll write a report that's 100 percent their own.


  1. That's impressive that she did it on her on time!! I love infographics and other graphs--it really helps me to understand things. I especially loved Steve Jenkins's Animals by the Numbers--such a cool book.

  2. It is no surprise that your thorough research and detailed manuscripts can inspire others to pursue their own learning and share it in the visual medium. Brava