Research Project Lesson Plan: Citing Sources

Submitted by: Angela Watson

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this multi-day lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-12, students use BrainPOP resources to learn about citing sources and how to define plagiarism, copyright, and fair use. Students will explain how to paraphrase and quote sources and why these skills are needed. They will also distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate ways to cite sources. Finally, students will apply their knowledge about these topics to a content-specific research project that utilizes a bibliography, endnotes, and/or footnotes.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Define plagiarism, copyright, and fair use, and their relevance to the real world
  2. Explain how to paraphrase and quote sources and why these skills are needed
  3. Distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate ways to cite sources



plagiarize; source; citation; consequence; attribute (verb); verbatim; quotation; footnote; endnote; bibliography; paraphrase; copyright; copyright infringement; source; footnote; endnote


Make photocopies of the materials listed above. Preview each movie and its related resources and plan discussion points. Begin preparing students' research project guidelines so that they can apply their knowledge about citing sources as soon as the three-day lesson is completed. Their research projects can serve as a cumulative assessment.

Lesson Procedure:


  2. Tell students you'd like to find out what they know about plagiarism. Ask for their definition of the word, then show the Plagiarism Quiz. Have students hold up cards that say A, B, C, or D (or hold up 1 finger to indicate A, two fingers to indicate B, etc.) to share their answers. Discuss each question as you go through the quiz.
  3. Play the Plagiarism Movie, pausing to discuss key points.
  4. Ask students what they think happens when people plagiarize. Is it a serious offense? Show the Real Life FYI and talk about these examples of plagiarism and the consequences.
  5. Give students a copy of the Identify It Activity to complete in pairs. Set a timer for several minutes, and when it goes off, bring the whole class back together and discuss their ideas.
  6. Have students flip their papers over and complete the Graphic Organizer alone or with their partner. Collect these and use them to guide your instruction in the following day's lesson.

  1. Ask if any students ever had their work plagiarized. Has anyone in the class had a Facebook status copied without attribution, or a photo shared without permission. How did they feel?
  2. Explain that writers can feel equally offended when someone steals their content, and that in many situations, laws are in place to protect their work. Show the Did You Know? FYI to introduce the term 'copyright infringement.' Use the Copyright Graphic Organizer to record what students already know and want to learn about copyright. Type directly into the form.
  3. In a new tab or window on your computer, show the Copyright Movie. Then return to the tab or window with the KWL graphic organizer and record student responses for the 'What I learned' column.
  4. Explore the Copyright FYI Features together and discuss, or have students read them independently and complete the Quiz.

  1. Display the FYI Comic on citing sources. What other tricks do students sometimes use to avoid paraphrasing and properly citing references? Why is it better to cite sources correctly? How can that be done?
  2. Watch the Citing Sources Movie as a class and discuss.
  3. Display the Q&A page. Ask students to answer some or all of the questions either verbally or in writing. Then click on the links to reveal the answers that BrainPOP provides. Address any student misconceptions or discrepancies.
  4. Have students take the Quiz independently as an assessment.

Extension Activity:

After exploring plagiarism, copyright, and citing sources, students may be ready to compose research papers. You may want to use the movies and resources associated the with Online Sources, Internet Search, Paraphrasing, or other Writing topics to help prepare them.
  • lcottrell

    Why do you have the citing source video on the plagiarism day, the plagiarism video on the copy right day and the copyright video on the citing source day. Also what are the answers for the identify it activity which is also on the wrong day.

    • cemignano

      Hi there- Thanks so much for pointing out the links! We’ll take a closer look and make any necessary changes. You can find the answer keys here: Select the subject, and you’ll see there is an “Activity Answer Key” under each topic.