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Academic Honesty: Deterring Plagiarism

Plagiarism Defined

In an instructional setting, plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original (not common-knowledge) material without acknowledging its source.

--from Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices

How to Deter Plagiarism

  • Discuss with students standards of academic scholarship and conduct.
  • Make students aware of the importance of academic honesty.
  • Clearly state your policies and expectations for documenting sources and avoiding plagiarism.
  • Learn to recognize and act upon signs of stress in students.
  • Avoid using recycled or formulaic assignments that may invite stock or plagiarized responses.
  • Design assignments that require students to explore a subject in depth.
  • Ensure equal access to study materials.
  • Assure students they can succeed in your class without having to resort to dishonesty.
  • Confront students directly as soon as you suspect them of cheating or plagiarizing.
  • Clarify the distinctions between plagiarism, paraphrasing and direct citation.
  • Report possible cases of plagiarism to the institution.

Plagiarism-Resistant Assignments

Can you reduce incidents of plagiarism in your classroom by redesigning your writing assignments? Here are some best practices to consider.

Contextualize Writing Prompts

In his book Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty, James Lang presents a case study wherein an instructor discusses four ways that she contextualizes her writing prompts, creating assignments that, by design, resist plagiarism.

  • Time - placing the writing prompt within the context of current events, conversations, trends or research.
  • Place - rooting the writing within the context of the local community or the College itself
  • Experience - contextualizing the writing in the student’s personal experiences
  • Interdisciplinary context - asking students to draw connections between your course, other courses and perhaps co-curricular activities 

Tailor assignments to the content of your course

  • Use unusual/nontraditional combinations of texts
  • Ask students to make interdisciplinary connections
  • Use Blackboard discussions as a source

Provide an authentic audience

Ask students to:

  • Write an editorial
  • Contribute to a Wikipedia article
  • Write a proposal to the Board of Trustees

Other guides

Designing Assignments to Discourage Plagiarism
Alice Robison - Writing Across the Curriculum at UW-Madison

"Teaching our students about proper use of sources and citation methods is an important part of discouraging plagiarism, and defining, discussing, and teaching proper use of sources and citation methods is a useful tactic. Experienced instructors concur that it is important to include information on plagiarism in their syllabi, perhaps confirming class discussions with “academic honesty contracts” or institutional “honor codes.” In addition, instructors can think carefully about course- and assignment-design."

Deterring Plagiarism
Margaret Procter, University of Toronto

"Knowing how to build personal ideas on past knowledge is a central goal of university study, but it sometimes seems that students hear about it mainly through warnings and threats. Here are some practical ways to lessen the risk of plagiarism in your classes while using writing as a way for students to explore ideas and learn ways of thinking."

Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers
Robert Harris, VirtualSalt

"The availability of textual material in electronic format has made plagiarism easier than ever. Copying and pasting of paragraphs or even entire essays now can be performed with just a few mouse clicks. The strategies discussed here can be used to combat what some believe is an increasing amount of plagiarism on research papers and other student writing. By employing these strategies, you can help encourage students to value the assignment and to do their own work."

Designing Assignments to Encourage Integrity
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, Indiana University Bloomington

Six straightforward changes you can make to your assignments including invaluable advice about changing your assignments frequently!

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  • Last Updated: Dec 19, 2019 2:15 PM
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