Strategies for deterring plagiarism

At the University of Nevada, Reno we define plagiarism as: “(1) the appropriation of another persons ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit; (2) the submission of ideas, processes, results or words not developed by the student specifically for the coursework at hand without the appropriate credit being given; or (3) assisting in the act of plagiarism by allowing ones work to be used as described above.” (University Administrative Manual)

Student plagiarism is often unintentional and derives from a lack of knowledge of ethical citation practices or proper integration of sources. Intentional plagiarism happens too, sometimes in the form of a panic-based decision and other times an intentional decision to break the rules. (UC Davis, Addressing Plagiarism Series, University of Nevada, Reno Library, Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism)

Though ultimately it is the responsibility of students to learn the correct citation practices, there are still a number of strategies instructors can employ to discourage plagiarism (adapted from UC Davis - Addressing Plagiarism and James Lang Cheating Lessons, 2013). Some strategies include:

  1. State clear policies regarding plagiarism and its consequences in the course syllabus.
  2. Teach students discipline-specific ethical citation practices, including what plagiarism is, and why and how to avoid it in your discipline.
  3. Help students to develop strong reading and media literacy skills in your discipline.
  4. Design assignments to discourage plagiarism (Heckler et al., 2013) and to encourage intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy of learners (Lang, 2013).
    • Design for intrinsic motivation of students in the assignment: ask interesting and authentic questions that require active processing of content, invite students to relate personally to topics and give students choice when possible.
    • Ground writing assignments in specific contexts that will vary over time: i.e. a specific time/place/event in the news or related to students’ lives.
    • Scaffold writing assignments with lower stakes assignments building to bigger and higher stakes assignments. For a high stakes research paper, you might ask students to first submit a brainstorm on their topic, then a bibliography, then an annotated bibliography, then an outline of a paper, then a rough draft and then a final draft.
    • At all stages of the writing process, consider incorporating Turnitin as a learning tool (along with other integrated WebCampus tools such as Rubrics and Peer Review).
    • See additional strategies for discouraging plagiarism in the UC Davis, Addressing Plagiarism Series and Penn State, Strategies for Preventing Academic Integrity Issues.