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The article focuses on the use and misuse of models-both appropriate and inappropriate-in the report-writing practices of first year physics students, especially those from non-English speaking backgrounds. It analyzes the students' propensity to use any available text on a given topic as a source of model sentences. Examples of "copying" are provided and analyzed. It is argued that many forms of copying are legitimate learning strategies of novice writers, for the production of certain kinds of texts, but that this can become a problem when inappropriate models are used or when appropriate models are used inappropriately. Copying is discussed in relation to imitative learning and modeling as well as plagiarism, and some suggestions to improve teaching practice are made.