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Preventing Student Plagiarism: A Guide for Faculty

Plagiarism Prevention Tips and Strategies

  • Make sure your students understand what constitutes plagiarism in your assignment, subject or course.*

    • Include the definition of plagiarism in your syllabus, clarify your expectations and student responsibilities.
    • Identify what may constitute ‘common knowledge’ and not need referencing.*
    • Give examples of the type of citations and sources you expect students to use.*
    • If your assignments involve teamwork, your syllabus should include definitions of acceptable forms of collaboration and responsibilities of project members for plagiarism and collusion.
    • 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.
  • Discuss the ethical side of plagiarism with your students.
  • Share your stories of dealing with student plagiarism.
  • Understand why students plagiarize so you can address the issues.
    Common reasons of student plagiarism
    • 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.
  • Make it clear to the students that you know their writing style.
  • Design your course and assignments to promote learning and minimize students' opportunities to plagiarize.*

    • Change your assignments for each time the course is taught.*
      Include current information and personal reflection where possible as this is not so easily downloaded from the Internet and invites student engagement.

    • Include ‘process’ in the assessment as well as analysis, evaluation and synthesis.*
      Check the steps in the assessment process i.e. check drafts or interim work (which may or may not be not assessed).

    • Avoid assignments limited to information gathering.*
      Include an aspect of recasting/interpreting information to prevent students simply gathering and reporting facts.

    • Individualize tasks and create tasks which may have multiple solutions.
      In some disciplines it may be useful to give students the same task but with differing data sets.

    • Scaffold assignments.


Subject librarians will be happy to help you design assignments that deter plagiarism

(Items marked with * are taken or modified from Top 10 Tips on Deterring Plagiarism - University of Kent)

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

Module with a quiz for your students

Your students can learn about plagiarism and ways to avoid it by taking a module with a final quiz.

Please note that the module was designed to be used as an introduction to plagiarism concepts. Once you add it to your course you can customize the information and examples to fit your course content and level. If you wish to incorporate discipline-specific examples, please reach out to your subject liaison librarian.

If you wish to assign the plagiarism module to students who are enrolled in an existing Canvas course or organization which you administer, please follow the steps below.

  • Login to Canvas.
  • Click on the "Commons" link or icon on the left side of the screen.
  • Click "Filter," scroll down to the bottom and  the click the button for University of Cincinnati.
  • In the search box type "plagiarism." Click the link for "Plagiarism: Why Should It Matter to You."
  • On the module screen, click the "Import/Download" button on the right side.
  • Choose the destination course for the module.
  • Click "Import into Course."
  • The module will appear under "Modules" in the course menu. The “For Instructors” page includes information about editing the module within your course.

Note: The module may be updated as needed. If you want to use the current version, you should re-import the module from the Commons. Use caution, as existing student submissions will be lost.

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