Reducing plagiarism and improving writing: A lesson from Chinese painting


  • Dennis Allen Rovere Univeristy of Calgary



L2 writing, plagiarism, reducing plagiarism, theoretical writing model, analytical tools, writing instructions, Chinese painting principles, ESL, Canada, Canadian university, practitioner, patchwriting


Both research and experience has established that plagiarism is a relatively common feature in L2 writing. This is the result of several factors, including lack of understanding of the original material, limitations in academic vocabulary, time constraints, and so on. Although there are specific sanctioned instances where copying and presenting works as your own in cultures such as Chinese, plagiarism is never allowed. How then can a university level writing instructor overcome the confusion this creates among groups such as Chinese L2 students? In response to this question, the author proposes a theoretical model, based upon a traditional analytical framework for Chinese painting – where copying is a requirement. This model mimics the Six Principles proposed by Hsieh He’s [or Xiè Hè’s – 謝赫] in 520 AD. By modifying, translating, and directly applying these Six Principles to writing, students can better learn how to avoid plagiarism, gain a greater understanding of the material they are reading, and develop ways to better express themselves.


Cahill, J. (1994). The painter’s practice. New York: Columbia University Press.

Liu, D. (2005). Plagiarism in ESOL students: Is cultural conditioning truly the major culprit? ELT Journal, 59(3), 234-241.

Lu, C. (1987). The art of writing (S. Hill, Trans.). Breitenbush Books (Original work written in 261 A.D.).

Pecorari, D. (2015). Plagiarism in second language writing: Is it time to close the case? Journal of Second Language Writing, 30, 94-99.

Sowdon, C. (2005). Plagiarism and the culture of multilingual students in higher education abroad. ELT Journal 59(3), 226-233.

Sze, M. (1959). The way of Chinese painting. New York: Random House.

Wieger, L. (1927). Chinese characters: Their origin, etymology, history, classification, and signification. Peking, China: Catholic Mission Press.





Practitioner Articles