Can I Use Free Essays: Is It Plagiarism?

We are taught that copying the works of others is wrong. Indeed, stealing the ideas of another and passing them off as your own is a crime with far-reaching consequences. At the same time, striving for originality at any cost can have negative consequences as well. There are circumstances when copying is acceptable and even recommended. Generally, copying can be part of learning process.

For instance, free essays are absolutely legitimate as a source of inspiration. Why not imitate the writing style, format and reasoning of sample papers done by experts, just as beginning artists copy the brush strokes and color palettes of famous masters?

There’s Nothing Wrong with Copying to Learn

History has famous examples of copying. There is for instance the famous story about 14 year old Mozart copying down Allegri’s Miserere, a 12-minute piece, note by note after hearing it just once. Miserere is a setting of Psalm 51, and in those times writing it down and performing it anywhere except church could result in excommunication (exclusion from the sacraments of a church). The Pope, however, did not punish Mozart. Instead, he praised young boy’s music genius and even removed the ban on writing down and playing Miserere. The Pope appreciated a genius who could perform the almost impossible task of copying this melody.

So there is nothing wrong with copying when you do so in order to train your technical skills.

  • Musicians learn to play tunes the way they hear them.
  • Painters create variations on famous masterpieces.
  • Developers type out some interesting parts of code they find.
  • Students use free sample essays to follow style and format.

Learning by Example

Observation and imitation are powerful strategies for studying because of the way our brains work. Scholars have discovered a so-called mirror neuron system that functions specifically to help humans mimic one another. This is how kids learn by copying adults, and why problems are easier to solve by following an example.

Have you noticed that you can perform a task faster and easier if you have a good example to work from? It’s an easy and natural way to learn. Studying does not necessarily require suffering. You should use your brain’s potential to the fullest, instead of trying to break its laws. By using free essays as examples, you make the best use of your brain’s natural properties.

The Difference between ‘Inspired by’ and ‘Copied from’

At the same time, it’s important to use the imitation strategy correctly. The line between ‘inspired by’ and ‘copied from’ can be blurry. Copying and pasting certain parts of free essays into your own paper is the wrong way to go. Don’t expect to get away with plagiarism, since it is easy to detect using freely available software. Further, there is no expiration date for plagiarism. Annette Schavan, a former German education minister, learned this the hard way; she had to resign her post after instances of plagiarism were detected in her doctorate.

Golden Rules to Avoid Plagiarism

There is, however, no need to fear unintentional plagiarism. Plagiarism checkers will easily detect duplicate content, but teachers will check twice to avoid unwarranted accusations. Just take the proper precautionary measures:

  1. Give credit to authors whose work you use.
  2. Use quotation marks for direct word-for-word quotes.
  3. Carefully paraphrase indirect quotes.
  4. Use free essays for inspiration and research purposes only.
  5. Don’t cite free samples, since they are merely learning tools.
  6. The bibliography sections of free samples, on the other hand, can point you in the right direction for your research.
  7. Choose the most valuable resources from bibliographies and use primary sources.

In sum, you can and should benefit from free essays available online. The valuable information and ideas contained in this archive can help to speed up your research, while following the sample format can boost your learning outcomes in general.

Learning by observing and imitating the work done by experts can be a very effective study tactic if used correctly.

Irene Fenswick

Irene Fenswick is a freelance writer and blogger with a Master's degree in English Literature. She has been working as an academic advisor for undergraduate students for five years and she is willing to share her knowledge about writing. Irene has 15+ years of expertise in solving academic-related issues.

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Comments (5)

Tory
May 10th, 2016 - 7:07 am

Your post has lifetd the level of debate

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Keshawn
January 12th, 2017 - 3:46 am

A wonderful job. Super helpful inamooftirn.

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Irene Fenswick
Irene Fenswick
January 12th, 2017 - 6:34 pm

Thanks for your feedback, Keshawn!

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Marian Granda
July 11th, 2016 - 9:15 pm

Thank’s great post.

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Irene Fenswick
Irene Fenswick
July 14th, 2016 - 2:51 pm

Hi Marian,

thank you for stopping by to write this!

Reply