Friday, March 26, 2021

Nonfiction Writing Tips: Why Students Plagiarize—It’s Not What You Think

As you read the mentor essays in Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-winning Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing, you’ll see that the importance of making personal connections emerges again and again.

A nonfiction’s writer’s personality, beliefs, and experiences in the world have a tremendous impact on how they evaluate, assimilate, analyze, and synthesize their research to make personal connections.


Each writer views the facts and ideas they’ve gathered through their own lens, and that’s what allows them to present information in unique and interesting ways. It’s the reason that Death Eaters: Meet Nature’s Scavengers by Kelly Milner Halls is so different from Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, and Slime: Nature’s Decomposers by Anita Sanchez and Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill by Heather L. Montgomery even though all three books have some overlapping content.

Currently, most students don’t take time to think before they write. They don’t “digest” the information they’ve gathered. And because this critical step isn’t part of their prewriting process, they sometimes end up plagiarizing.

You see, plagiarizing isn’t merely the result of students being lazy. It occurs because students lack the skills necessary to put the information they’ve collected through our own personal filters and making their own meaning.

When students are able add a piece of themselves to their drafts, they can move beyond writing dry, encyclopedic survey pieces that mimic their sources and begin crafting rich, distinctive prose.


How can students learn these critical skills? I’ll share some of the suggestions in Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

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