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Preventing Plagiarism

Plagiarism is easier to prevent than to “cure.” These suggestions will discourage plagiarism, and have the added benefit of encouraging better writing overall.

1. Make sure your students understand what plagiarism is, and know how to document sources correctly.
Include a syllabus statement on the correct use of sources, plagiarism, and its consequences. Talk to your students about why good citation matters in your field. Refer students to the Student Judicial Services Web site or the UT Libraries online plagiarism tutorial.

2. Focus your assignments, and change them often.
Using the same writing assignment year after year makes it easy for students to appropriate earlier work. And formulaic assignments encourage formulaic responses.

3. Put assignments in writing, and include the criteria for grading.
Having a written description of the task available will prevent confusion and misunderstandings that can lead to plagiarism. Knowing the grading criteria demystifies the problem of “what the instructor wants.”

4. Track students’ progress on each writing assignment.
Have students turn in a draft of the project for your feedback, then revise it before submission for grading. This greatly improves the final product, and reduces plagiarism by making development, or the lack of it, obvious.

5. Check for metalearning.
Have your students write a short response or reflection detailing the thinking, researching, and writing they went through to complete the assignment. Or include an oral component at some point in the assignment, so students must familiarize themselves with the material, and answer questions about it.

6. Require unique sources.
Teach about your field by requiring students to conduct interviews, create data sets, or do local research.

7. Check cited sources carefully, and tell your students that you will do this.
Plagiarism detection services like TurnItIn have very poor records of catching plagiarized text, but simple Google searches usually identify about 90% of plagiarism cases. Please contact our office for further advice on detecting plagiarism.