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Why and How should I Cite the Information?

Stealing vs Borrowing

Taking information from the Internet is easy and, most of the time, no one is looking. But someone always owns the information and it is protected by copyright law. If you use such information, it is a good idea to start early citing the source.


  • ISTE NETS for Students #3: Research and Information Fluency:
    • "ethically use information from a variety of sources and media"
  • understand why citation is important


  • none, unless the moral dilemma is used as a role play


By using a moral dilemma, and possibly acting it out, children will think about the reasons for stealing, why taking information from online without citation is like stealing and that citing where information came from is expected in school.

There are potentially many ways to stage this dilemma. Set it at your school, your classroom, library or computer lab. Use this story by Charis Denison as the basis for the dilemma. Focus on the third paragraph in which Andrew steals the laptop from the school computer lab--you don't really need all the background in the story. Or, instead of a laptop, make the story about something the students in your class might take if no one was looking.

Follow the story or role play with questions:

What reasons did Andrew have for taking the (stolen item)?

What would you say to Andrew if you were his friend?

Is taking the (stolen item) worth it? How might Andrew feel afterwards?

Who owned the (stolen item)? What are they thinking and feeling now? What if Andrew had taken this from you?

Who owns the (stolen item) now?

If Andrew wanted to borrow the item, what would he need to do?

What's the right thing to do in this story?

Talk about how easy it is to take information (music, pictures, stories, etc.) from the Internet. Everything on the Internet is owned by someone--you may want to show some examples. If you want to use the information for school, you can, but you need to say who owns it and where you got it. It's OK to borrow, but not to steal. You can also tie this in to your school's rules about plagiarism.

Five Things Every Elementary Student Needs to Know (about Information Fluency)