Plagiarism Says What? This Map Shows the States Where People Aren’t Sure What it Means to Plagiarize


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Pretty much every single college student is bound to run across one word over and over again in their academic career: Plagiarism.

At many colleges and universities, there are stiff penalties for any student caught plagiarizing some or all of their work. Sometimes, the work is simply thrown out and the student receives a 0 on the assignment or test. But in other cases, students can be removed from their program or even expelled entirely.

Plagiarism is no joke. It’s taken very seriously, especially in the academic world.

But it appears that many students may not even know what plagiarism means. And some states are worse than others. We did an analysis of Google Trends data to put together this map, showing the states where students are using Google search to find information on plagiarism.


In this analysis, we looked at searches for the term “what is plagiarism,” which clearly indicates an interest in either the definition of the word or the specific nuance of what qualifies and what does not.

In case you’re wondering, plagiarism includes, essentially, any kind of copying or use of words, ideas, or works without proper credit. This doesn’t just mean copy and pasting entire paragraphs into an essay. It’s also the use of ideas presented in other materials without properly attributing and citing the source. This is considered theft.

How Melania Trump Inspired People to Learn the Definition of Plagiarism

In July of 2016, it was widely reported that Melania Trump may have cribbed parts of her speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention from a previous speech  given by Michelle Obama. Although the controversy never came to a resolution, many people threw out claims of plagiarism on the part of Mrs. Trump or the Trump team.

Apparently, people were listening. And they wanted to draw their own conclusions.

If we look at the Google Trends data for “what is plagiarism” during the week of July 17 to July 23, 2016, it shows a massive spike in searches. The change was not subtle.


The data show about a 900% uptick in search volume between this week and the week prior to her speech. You can also see that search volume following her speech was up about the same amount when compared to search volume during the same week in 2015.

So, thanks to Melania Trump’s speech (and critics who questioned its originality), thousands of Americans now know the definition of plagiarism.

Hopefully, some of them were college students who learned what not to do on their next assignment.

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Tyler Hakes is the Director of Marketing at uCribs. He writes about topics related to college.

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