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Preventing Plagiarism

Preventing Plagiarism

Design Assignments to Prevent Plagiarism

Discuss Plagiarism with Your Class

  • Include a definition in your syllabus.
  • Have students talk or write about the ethical implications.
  • Inform them of the consequences.
  • Model proper citation strategies.
  • Present them with examples of plagiarism and show how to correct them.
  • Require students to present you with copies of articles and brief selections from books. These should be marked or highlighted. (Students should be informed of this requirement early on).
  • Require multiple drafts, and that students include earlier drafts with later submissions.

Other recommended practices:

  • Clarify how much collaboration is allowed.
  • Avoid completely open choice of topics.
  • Avoid common topics (e.g., abortion, the death penalty)..
  • Use class discussion as a starting point.
  • Specify the number and kind of sources needed.
  • Use staged assignments, for instance asking for 3 newspaper articles one class, 2 Reference book articles for the next, 3 scholarly articles for the next, etc.
  • Require oral presentations where students must demonstrate understanding of the topic.

Include Library Instruction

  • Make sure that students have topics prior to the instruction.
  • Have an assignment due immediately after the library instruction, e.g., a working bibliography.
  • NMSU Library Tips for Creating Effective Library Assignments (below).

Other Resources

The following books are available at the NMSU Library. Among other things, they describe prevention of plagiarism.

Combating Plagiarism. Carey, Suzanne F, and Patricia Arnett Zeck. Printed by the Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation. A very short but useful introduction to the subject of plagiarism. Especially useful for teachers.
PN 167 .C37 2003.

The Plagiarism Handbook. Harris, Robert A. Includes a chapter on strategies for detecting plagiarism, including several useful web sites for this purpose. This is a practical refresher for teachers looking to prevent and deal with plagiarism. 
PN 167. H37 2001.

Effective assignments

Effective Assignmentshelpful tips

Do not assume that your students already know how to do college-level research.

Give students library instruction close to a due date. 
You could ask students to hand in a working bibliography the next class.

Design assignments in consultation with librarians. 
Librarians can suggest steps and appropriate resources and methods. This reduces frustration and increases efficiency.

Give clear directions. 
Students will often interpret directions in a very simplistic sense. For example, simply saying "no Internet resources" makes students wonder whether library databases accessed over the Internet are also forbidden.

Encourage students to use library resources. 
Students are often unaware that they can find many online resources using the licensed article databases available via the Library's web site. Librarians can assist in identifying relevant library databases and other tools.

Direct students to various possible topics and resources, rather than a single topic or source.
If all students are writing on the same topic, plagiarism is easier. It is also easy to find papers on broad or common topics. Please see our tips on How to Prevent Plagiarism (above).

Pre-test the assignment. 
Check that resources are adequate and access is unproblematic.

When all students must consult an item, place it on reserve.
Placing it on reserve ensures that all students, not just one, can access the material.

Avoid scavenger hunts. 
Students find these frustrating, and librarians end up doing the work.