Plagiarism: Education, Prevention, and Detection


    The Problem:

    • Students often unclear on definition of plagiarism
    • Internet makes cut and paste plagiarism very easy
    • Widespread availability of research papers for sale
    • "Culture of cheating"

    Approaches to Dealing with the Problem:

    1. Educate students

      • Try to understand why students plagiarize.
        • They truly may not understand what plagiarism is.
        • They may make poor choices related to priorities, time management, etc.
        • They may be thrill-seeking.

      • Explicitly define plagiarism (in all its forms) in class or in your syllabus.

      • Clearly state the institutional penalties (and/or your own) for plagiarizing.

      • Spend time discussing proper use of the citation format you require.

      • Let students know you are aware of common methods used to plagiarize.

      • Let students know you will spot check every paper for fake citations.

      • Use an internet tutorial in class to teach students about plagiarism.


    2. Design assignments to prevent plagiarism.

      • Assign specific topics, avoiding those that are broad or commonplace.

      • Require some current sources (within the last year). For some disciplines, requiring that no source be older than five years may be appropriate.

      • Require a variety of types of sources (books, online or print articles, websites).

      • Require a specific source be cited somewhere in the paper. This could be a textbook, an article of your choice related to methodology or theory, etc.

      • Emphasize the process. Require students to turn in a thesis, outline, draft, and annotated bibliography.

      • Require students to keep a journal detailing their research process or write a post-assignment essay reflecting on the process.

      • Require an oral presentation.

      • Require students to turn in copies of cited sources with relevant sections highlighted.

    3. Learn techniques to identify and trace plagiarism.

      • Basic tell-tale clues include multiple fonts, page number errors, formatting irregularities, web addresses printed at page bottoms, no sources cited, mixed citation or writing styles, anachronisms in the text, etc.

      • Compare the writing to the student's earlier essays or in-class writing assignments.

      • Use targeted phrase searching in Google or full text library databases to check for text copied from the internet.

        • Search suspicious phrases in quotes. "represents a fundamental shift in the theoretical construct"

        • Remove quotes to find phrases that have been slightly altered.

      • Another good website has been developed at the University of Maryland Dept. of Education. It is designed to check entire papers for plagiarism. You copy and paste the entire paper into their search box and the software will search the web for plagiarized content.
      • There are online programs that one can purchase that trace papers that have been purchased or otherwise acquired from friends or the web.

        • www.plagiarism.org / www.turnitin.com is the most well-known.

        • Understand that these programs are not foolproof and will not uncover every instance of plagiarism. Student education and effective design of assignments are more proactive ways to combat plagiarism; however, tools like these may be helpful in certain problem situations and may also serve as a deterrent to students.



    Preventing plagiarism through smart course and assignment design:

    Virtual Salt, an excellent site by Robert Harris, author of "The plagiarism handbook" and Using sources effectively: strengthening your writing and avoiding plagiarism, which we have in the library (call number: LB2369 .H37 2002Y)


    Plagiarism Tutorial:



    Relevant Journal Articles:

    Johnson, Doug. "Plagiarism-proofing assignments." Phi Delta Kappan 85.7 (2004): 549.

    Madray, Amrita. "Developing students' awareness of plagiarism: crisis and opportunities." Library Philosophy and Practice (June 2007).

    McLafferty, Charles L. and Karen M. Foust. "Electronic plagiarism as a college instructor's nightmare: prevention and detetction." Journal of Education for Business 79.3 (2004): 186(4).

    Patterson, Jim. "A war of words: software programs developed to combat the scourge of student plagiarism have found opposition from the very circle of educators they're meant to help." T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education) 34.9 (Sept 2007): p18(3).

    Reddy, Mike. "...believe that software that prevents plagiarism prevents learning." Times Higher Education Supplement 9 Jul. 2004: 16.

    Scanlon, Patrick M. "Student online plagiarism: how do we respond?" College Teaching 51.4 (2003): 161(5).

    Soto, Julio G., Elizabeth McGee, and Sulekha Anand. "Plagiarism avoidance: an empiracal study examining teaching strategies." Journal of College Science Teaching 33.7 (2004): 42-48.

    Sterngold, Arthur. "Confronting Plagiarism: how conventional teaching invites cyber-cheating." Change 36.3 (2004): 16(6).


    Plagiarism Detection Software:

    www.plagiarism.org / www.turnitin.com

    University of Maryland Dept. of Education (free)

    Glatt Plagiarism Screening Service

    University of Virginia: WCopyfind (free)

    UPDATED: 10/2/2018

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