Avoiding and Checking for Plagiarism

by Tonia Malone on November 16, 2010

Pla•gia•rism (noun) the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2010) states that to “plagiarize” means:

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
  • to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

I think that the best way to prevent plagiarism is to educate the students how not to plagiarize, then check their work. Consider using the first time that a student plagiarizes as a “teaching moment.;” if there is a second time, then follow campus policies to have the matter examined more closely.

Why do students plagiarize? (plagiarism dot ORG., 2010)

  • They may not know the proper forms of citation
  • Inability to determine between paraphrasing and plagiarism
  • They may mix up their ideas and notes with other sources
  • They have deep fears about making the grade, which can cloud their judgment
  • Lack of time-management skills that causes them to wait until the last minute to work on their papers
  • Not all cultures view plagiarism the same

If you require your students to write a paper for your course, make sure to provide your students with detailed requirements including the paper format (Chicago, APA, MLA, ACS, AAA, and APSA), citation support, and campus policies.

Some Links for Citation Support

Tips for Making an Assignment Plagiarism Free

Jill Frey, Writing Center Coordinator at Presbyterian College, suggests the following assignment requirements to help prevent plagiarism:

  • Require specific topics
  • Require particular formats or text models
  • Focus on current issues
  • Require current sources
  • Ask students to write on local issues
  • Have students include personal interviews
  • Ask for some personal reflection
  • Require team reports
  • Ask for oral reports along with the written papers

Checking for Plagiarism

Before your students turn in their papers, have them check their own work first. Allow them to correct their errors before you see it.

Student Self-Check

  • WriteCheck http://www.writecheck.com: Allows students to check their own work. “…first: spelling check; second: grammar check; and, third: originality check.”

Faculty Checker

  • Google http://www.google.com/: Copy/Paste the sentence inside the search box with quotations around it and then search. If it matches you will find links to the web pages that the sentence was extracted from. Then use the browser Find tool to search the page for the sentence.

Testing your Plagiarism Knowledge


Souce for Image: http://tilt.library.skagit.edu/module4/plagiarism.htm (cited Nov 2010)

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010.
Retrieved Nov. 9, 2010, from
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plagiarize

plagiarismdotORG, 2010
Retrieved Nov. 9, 2010, from http://www.plagiarism.org/index.html

Cal Poly Academic Programs, 2010
Retrieved Nov. 9, 2010, from http://www.academicprograms.calpoly.edu/academicpolicies/Cheating.html

Understanding Plagiarism. 2010.
Retrieved Nov. 9, 2010, from https://www.indiana.edu/~tedfrick/plagiarism/

Preventing Plagiarism, Jill Frey. (NA).
Retrieved Nov. 9, 2010, from http://web.presby.edu/writingcenter/faculty/preventplag.html

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar Terri Bruns, ITS Collaboration Support November 19, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Thanks for the timely post, Tonia. I wish individuals had enough personal integrity to make this whole topic unnecessary, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

Cal Poly’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities has a plagiarism website with FAQ’s that address several topics discussed above. See: http://www.osrr.calpoly.edu/plagiarism . OSRR’s “Academic Dishonesty” website provides “Faculty Requirements and Procedures” associated with reporting plagiarism. See http://www.osrr.calpoly.edu/academicdishonesty .

In a recent IACC faculty survey 3 or 4 of approximately 220 respondents expressed a desire for anti-plagiarism software such as Turnitin. This software works by comparing papers to massive databases and by adding submissions for review to these databases. Turnitin has 135 million archived student papers. Its parent company, iParadigms, also markets a student service, WriteCheck which, for a fee, checks a paper without adding it to the Turnitin databases. Anti-plagiarism software itself is relatively inexpensive, but there would be significant overhead for administration and colleges to define policies, standards, guidelines, and faculty support. In addition, the university would need to be prepared to respond to any legal challenges associated with having a campus-sanctioned anti-plagiarism service.

CSU Long Beach has recently implemented Turnitin and has a very comprehensive website at http://www.csulb.edu/library/subj/plagiarism/index.html . Interestingly, this effort appears to be coordinated by their library. This makes sense in the context of copyright expertise, etc.

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