Why Are We Tempted by the «Copy-Paste» Method?

The Internet offers us an abundance of essays and resources on any domain in an instant. Sometimes, it even contains the subject of our dissertation or the ready report based on some memoir – and all of that is just waiting to be copied! Why should we try to reinvent something that already exists and that can be recovered in two clicks: «copy and paste»? This text often appears perfectly written, even elegantly in some way. «I can never do this well», you may say to yourself, in a subtle mixture of lack of self-confidence and unacknowledged laziness. More often than not, the work that has to be done was started way too late. Notions that would have produced personal work have not been assimilated. Do you have to write an essay for tomorrow? More time to work. The resources may be found all over the World Wide Web, so you do not even need to go to the library. After all, why not use the new digital tools? Is the knowledge made to be globally shared as if it was on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia not accessible to anyone who wants to use it? Of course it is! So why not just copy and paste everything?

«Copy-Paste»: Where is the Danger for the Student?

Even if the sanctions can now be very severe (up to being expelled), the most serious risk is not to be detected at all. It is impoverishing for your intellectual activity. Indeed, the copy and paste method prevents you from formulating your own thoughts and opinions into the real words: you do not really think about what you want to say or demonstrate. You do not progress in understanding your subject. And of course, you do not bring an actual personal idea. Ultimately, your motivation for your studies weakens! On the level of written expression, you do not make any progress either, because it is by writing an essay that one succeeds in writing better. It does not work the other way around.

Two Challenges: Knowing What to Say and How to Write about it

In order not to plunder the essays written by others but to produce yours, there are two challenges you will have to overcome. The first is that before the writing, you must know what you want to convey to the reader: what kind of idea, thesis, argumentation, strong point do you want to defend and transmit to your readers in this paper? It is you who is studying, it is you who has to reflect and who can bring your own into the debate. Secondly, at the time of writing your essay, you have to know how to say what you want to say: how to present your ideas, articulate them, illustrate and justify them – all in the clearest possible way. And now, my advice for the «anti-copy-paste» method is to acquire these two skills.

Upstream: What Do You Mean?


When you have an essay to write, start the job well in advance. You need time to assimilate knowledge, to learn it, to understand it, to digest it; and it takes time to germinate your ideas. For an internship essay, for example, you should start taking notes based on your observations during the internship itself. It is necessary to document and gather all the information you need without using the Internet. Besides, even if you do resort to the websites, make sure you are using only the most reliable sources: websites for the official institutions, specialized sites or journals indicated by your teachers, research related to your topic, etc. List all the documents found. Underline the passages, phrases or quotes that appear interesting: if you copy and paste them into a draft, do not forget to indicate where they come from (the site, the journal, the article) and who is the real author (a teacher, a researcher, a writer). For more information, click here_____.

At the Time of Writing an Essay: How to Express Your Ideas by Yourself?

Explore Your Creative Self

You can now make a plan around your central idea. It is your message, the exact meaning of your paper that serves as the backbone of your essay. While respecting the formal instructions given by the teacher (for example, making a plan in two or three parts), try not to lose your own guideline: do not try to chase after someone else’s vision of your essay. At this point, you should realize that the texts or the ready-made essays that you might have found on the Internet do not correspond to what you mean: you can put them in the trash! Keep only the reference documents that you can use to extract some excerpts from. They will be used to verify certain information. Writing an essay is a long and hard work so the ideas must be logically and proportionally connected. Also, denote the place where you will put the quotes and examples found in books when writing your plan beforehand.

Insert Some Good Quotes to Avoid Plagiarism

In the institutions for higher education, you are asked to be particularly rigorous about how to mention the sources in an assignment. Not doing so is considered an act of plagiarism which is basically a fraud. If, for example, you copy and paste an extract of an essay found on the Internet as it was written by another person without specifying the source or putting quotation marks:

– you are trying to present the work of another person as yours;

– you deprive your reader of the useful references which could enable him or her to read further;

– you impoverish your own paper.

The universities now provide specific advice to all students on how to mention the sources, write bibliographic references and be vigilant in the group work (if a student plagiarizes, all the others are co-responsible). Ask about what your institution has set up and if you are unsure, ask a teacher for some advice.


Correct Mistakes

Once you have written your first draft, you are far from being finished: you have to read everything very carefully (both from the computer screen and on paper) to detect all mistakes and passages that need to be rewritten. Now is the time not only to improve the style, but also to refine your ideas, to precisely complete the missing references and to finalize the layout. Besides, this kind of work helps you to master your subject better. Note that, for instance, for an important work (like a thesis or a dissertation), it is strongly advised to obtain the opinion of a teacher on the quality of the work before the final editing.

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