In this paper a novel method for detecting plagiarized passages in document collections is presented. In contrast to previous work in this field that uses content terms to represent documents, the proposed method is based on a small list of stopwords (i.e., very frequent words). We show that stopword n-grams reveal important information for plagiarism detection since they are able to capture syntactic similarities between suspicious and original documents and they can be used to detect the exact plagiarized passage boundaries. Experimental results on a publicly available corpus demonstrate that the performance of the proposed approach is competitive when compared with the best reported results. More importantly, it achieves significantly better results when dealing with difficult plagiarism cases where the plagiarized passages are highly modified and most of the words or phrases have been replaced with synonyms.