While plagiarism cannot be completely prevented, there are some actions that are effective in discouraging it, or to state it more positively, encouraging the proper use of sources. These include the establishment of an appropriate classroom ethos, the incorporation of syllabus statements outlining expectations for your discipline and your class, the development of well-designed assignments, and communication with students on writing techniques and the proper use of sources in your discipline.
In encouraging honest intellectual effort, it is important to establish a firm but positive classroom ethos from the first day of class. To be effective, the ethic should have a positive side. Statements about what is not allowed, no matter how urgently expressed, are far more effective when paired with what is expected. While it can be tempting to focus on how you will punish or mark down plagiarism rather than your specific expectations, do not fall into this trap. Once the ethos shifts to strategic game-playing for points, students will see cheating as a rational choice.
Drawing on published literature, we have developed the following recommendations:
Incorporating statements on plagiarism into your syllabus not only explicitly defines the terms “cheating” and “plagiarism” in terms of your class, but also assists in setting a proper classroom ethos where expectations are realized from the first day. Beware, however, that many syllabus statements do not distinguish properly between cheating and misuse of sources. If not addressed, this omission can add to students’ confusion (see Brent 2006). Additionally, keep in mind that merely referring students to the Eastern Michigan University Conduct Code on Academic Dishonesty does set a tone, but not necessarily the tone that you would like. Consider tapping other sources, such as:
Syllabus statements should explain what the standards are for your discipline (ideally with a link to a disciplinary style guide) and for different kinds of writing (exams, reflection papers, various other kinds of written work) in your class.
Most professors have a set idea of what a "research paper" or "critical essay" should look like, but to the chagrin of most students, these expectations vary widely from one class to the next. The "but it was ok in so&so's class" excuse is often, confusingly, true. Beyond spelling out citation practices themselves, an effective assignment should spell out the purpose it serves, what steps are involved (hint: "do research in the library" involves many steps!), specific strategies to follow or avoid, and a model or example.
To avoid confusion and endless negotiation with students, follow these tips:
Instead of telling students what they should not do, focus on what you expect them to do. Promote correct paraphrasing, effective note-taking and citation. Provide examples of well-written articles from the genre and discipline for which they are writing and ask them to analyze the technique used by authors when integrating the work of others. Discuss your discipline's research and writing strategies with the class, giving context and meaning to what otherwise might seem to be arbitrary rules. Use the services of the Library or University Writing Center (i.e. tutorials, writing or research workshops or consultations).
Many online tutorials are available for students, ranging from good to just awful (consider assigning students to critique them!) - before you assign such tutorials, view them carefully to make sure they match your disciplinary and pedagogical expectations.
Brent, D. (2006). Using an Academic-Content Seminar to Engage Students with the Culture of Research. Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 18(1), 29-60. Back to text
Lamoreaux, M., Darnell, K., Sheehan, E., and Tusher, C. (2012). Educating Students about Plagiarism. Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology. Georgia State University. Retrieved November 2017 from http://teachpsych.org/Resources/Documents/otrp/resources/plagiarism/Educating%20Students%20about%20Plagiarism.pdf
Indiana University Bloomington Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2017). Designing assignments to encourage integrity. Retrieved November, 2017 from https://citl.indiana.edu/teaching-resources/academic-integrity/designing-assignments-encourage-integrity/
The Understanding Plagiarism online tutorial presents plagiarism in the context of everyday events, helping you learn not just how to avoid plagiarism but also why it's so important. (NOTE: tutorial opens in a new window)