Preventing Plagiarism

Preventing plagiarism isn't as difficult as one might think. The following are some simple strategies that faculty can use to prevent plagiarism:

Clarifying Concepts

  • Teach students how to correctly paraphrase, quote, and properly cite sources. For printable handouts click on Handouts for Students.
  • Some students do not know what plagiarism is. Explain the concepts of plagiarism, intellectual property, copyright, collaboration and fair dealing.

Course Syllabi

  • At the beginning of the term tell students that matters of academic dishonesty are taken very seriously at Middle Georgia State University. Faculty can reinforce this message by including a statement on academic dishonesty in the course syllabi. This statement should, however, be couched as fair warning rather than a threat.
  • In addition to reviewing the Student Code of Conduct in the MGA Student Handbook, think about what special issues may arise in a specific class. For example, is collaboration on assignments permissable or not? Faculty must make their expectations clear.
  • Faculty can help students learn how to properly cite materials, particularly Web sources, by providing information on style guides. The Middle Georgia State University Library has an online guide that explains how to cite sources. Citation Guides is available from the MGA Library website.

During Class

  • Discuss plagiarism as a moral and ethical issue. The relationship between faculty and students is based on trust; teach students the value of academic honesty and outline the responsibilities of being a junior member of the academic community.
  • Discuss the benefits of citing sources properly. Proper attribution shows that the student has done thorough research and that the student has been exposed to a diverse range of thought and opinion. As a result, the paper will likely be stronger.
  • Print a paper from one of the paper mills and critique it in class. This exercise accomplishes two things: first, it shows students that you are aware of paper mills and corresponding plagiarism detection services and second, you can teach them good writing skills by critiquing the paper.
  • Before the first assignment is due, outline the penalties for handing in plagiarized work and give examples of what the punishment has been for those caught plagiarizing in the past. The threat of being suspended or even expelled from the College or receiving a permanent mark on a transcript may be enough to deter a student from plagiarising.
  • Address the problems that students may have with citing sources from the Web. Some students may think that by citing a URL they are also citing any other links included in the Web site. Stress that students must cite the URL for any page or link they use. For tips on evaluating Internet sources, please click Handouts for Students.
  • Prior to the first major assignment, either book an instructional session on how to use library resources through the MGA Library. Many undergraduates do not know how to search the library for materials.

Assignment Design

The following list is comprised of suggestions only. Some professors do not think they are responsible for policing student behavior or that they should alter their assignments to alleviate student procrastination. However, fair warning and enough time to complete an assignment, offers of help such as looking at drafts or outlines, and clear assignments are things that faculty can do to help their students successfully complete an assignment. Other suggestions include the following:

  • Stagger due dates for different parts of a paper. For example, make the bibliography due a week before the final paper, or specify what materials students can use -- i.e. two Internet sources, three journal articles, two monographs, etc., or assign two or three smaller papers throughout the term rather than a single large one.
  • Assign narrowly focused topics rather than broad general ones or ask students to write about current events as they relate to class materials.
  • Change the paper topics each time the course is offered. This practice will prevent students from appropriating work done by former students.
  • Tell students in advance that you will randomly check sources in the bibliography.
  • Request that students hand in a photocopied page from the sources cited in their paper, or include an annotated bibliography as part of the assignment, or tell students that they can only use references that have been published within the last five years.
  • Require students to hand in notes or outlines with their paper because you are looking for evidence of original thought.

Information on this plagiarism website used and adapted with permission from the University of Alberta Libraries Learning Services.