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Preventing Student Plagiarism: A Guide for Faculty

Why do students plagiarize?

  • They may have a different cultural background.
  • They may not know/understand why proper attribution of sources is important.
  • They may not know how to document sources appropriately.
  • They are stressed and pressed for time.
  • They don't keep track of their sources while doing research.
  • They are not happy with their writing abilities.

Plagiarism prevention tips

  • Include the definition of plagiarism in your syllabus, clarify your expectations and student responsibilities. If your assignments involve teamwork, your syllabus should include definitions of acceptable forms of collaboration and responsibilities of project members for plagiarism.
  • Discuss the ethical side of plagiarism with your students.
  • Share your stories of dealing with student plagiarism.
  • Make it clear to the students that you know their writing style.
  • Use library resources and online tutorials referenced in this Guide to explain concepts related to plagiarism (paraphrasing, direct quotes, citing sources, etc.) and check the students' understanding of those concepts.
  • Work with librarians to develop creative assignments.

Suggested activities and scenarios

Plagiarism class ice-breaker/opening

  • Have each student write their greatest accomplishment or the thing they’re most proud of on an index card
  • Collect the cards then pass them out making sure no student gets their own accomplishment
  • Have students claim the accomplishments of the student who’s card they received

Scenarios addressing plagiarism

Present students with a number of scenarios that address the issue of plagiarism or other examples of unethical use of information or intellectual property violations. Ask the students to answer a set of questions, for example:

  • What is happening?
  • Why is it happening?
  • Is this a problem? Why or why not?
  • Who, if anyone, gets hurt by this action?
  • How would you feel if it were your work?

Examples of scenarios can be found in the following sources:

Exercise: Authorship, rights of authors, and responsible use of others' work

The following questions can be discussed in small groups with a summary to follow):

  • What or who is the author? What does it mean to create something?
  • Are you an author? Name some of the things you have created.
  • Suppose your college/program had an essay contest and you won it. You received a certificate and a handshake form the dean of your college. Then you find out that your roommate sent your essay to a magazine essay context with his or her name instead of yours. Your roommate won $5,00 and a spot on a popular TV show. How do you feel about what happened? What can you do about what your roommate did?
  • In the scenario above suppose your roommate took only one paragraph of your essay and still won the money and the TV experience. Would you feel any differently?
  • In the same scenario suppose your roommate took your ideas, changed the language just a little, and still won the money. Now how would you feel?
  • Why is it important to cite sources when writing or doing other kind of research?

(Modified from Burkhardt, J.M., MacDonald, Mary C. (2010). Teaching information literacy: 50 standard-based exercises for college students. Chicago: ALA).

Guide and Tutorials for Students

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