Plagiarism is a serious topic that’s often raised in response to academic writing. But despite the many warnings and threats of punishment by academic institutions, plagiarism still occurs among students, and with increasing frequency.
Quite surprisingly, it’s not just the academically challenged students who commit plagiarism. There are also those who are under constant pressure to achieve that are more likely to engage in acts of academic dishonesty (albeit subtler and harder to detect!).
According to research, there are three situations that prompt students to commit plagiarism:
- when they’re under pressure (catching up with tight deadlines or if a task is important for their grades);
- when they’re not interested in the task / don’t have the skills and knowledge to complete the task; or
- when they feel that the assignment is unfair to the point there’s no hope of success without cheating.
While this form of academic dishonesty can’t be completely prevented, there are certain measures teachers and advisors can take that can effectively discourage it. Or in a more positive light, teach effective writing techniques and encourage the proper use of sources.
Below are some guidelines that can deter students from plagiarizing:
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Talk with Students About Essay Writing Services
Academic honesty is an important academic policy. The principle is quite simple: A student must do their own work.
But with loads of homework to finish in a short span of time, on top of maintaining a healthy balance between studies and life, it comes as no surprise that many students turn to tutors and custom writing services to help ease the burden.
Let your students know that it’s never wrong to seek help, especially when their grades are at stake. Online essay writing services are here to stay because they know there’s a need among students. They’re perfectly legal and therefore, it’s safe to purchase essays online. However, this entirely depends on how students use them.
According to the leading essay writing service blog, IHateWritingEssays, academic writing companies deeply condone plagiarism and have a strict Honor Code that discourages students from using their services to commit academic dishonesty.
Essay writing services are simply there to provide writing help to students who want to improve their own writing skills or need direction on a topic they don’t have knowledge about. So even if ownership of a paper is turned over to the customer, this doesn’t mean they’re free to submit it as their own. This is grounds for plagiarism.
Simply put, a custom paper must only be used as a model paper or supporting material to help a student further their learning about a certain topic or subject – nothing more, nothing less.
Create a Classroom Ethos
To encourage academic honesty, it’s important to establish a strict yet positive classroom ethos from day one. But in order to be effective, the ethos must come with a positive side.
No matter how urgently it’s expressed, statements about what’s allowed and what’s not, tend to be more efficient when combined with what’s expected. As a teacher or advisor, it can be tempting to focus on how you’ll punish or markdown plagiarism instead of your specific expectations. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, create a list of dos and don’ts you and your students must adhere to.
- Respect your students’ efforts.
- State clearly that the class’s goal is to learn, and define the various ways of learning (ie reading, writing, listening, discussing) so that students will be primed to learn in various contexts.
- Discuss intellectual and emotional conditions of learning (i.e. critical thinking, openness, anxiety, etc.).
- Encourage your students to report on their subjective experience of learning, either through small group discussions, journals, essays, blogs, etc.
- Provide a scoring or grading tool (rubrics) that explicitly describes your performance expectations, so your grading practices are clear.
- Provide samples of the kind of output you expect from your students.
- Expect or assume that your students already know the basics.
- Assign homework or tasks that test students on trivia to see if they were paying attention.
- Assume that a student’s misuse of sources is automatically an ethical problem instead of a pedagogical one.
- Set rules or standards without rationale, or demand “no plagiarism” without explaining the context of your assignments and discipline.
- Give students the impression that you’re discouraging procedural questions.
- Give implications that many students like to cheat.
Develop Well-Designed Assignments
A lot of instructors have a set idea of what a proper essay or research paper should look like. Unfortunately for most students, these expectations vastly differ from one class to the next. Beyond teaching proper formatting and citation practices, an effective assignment should spell out its purpose, the steps involved, methods to follow and avoid, as well as an example or model. To avoid confusion with your students, follow the strategies below:
- Avoid assigning broad or vague topics. Instead of “discuss A” or “write a critical analysis of B”, try a more specific question like “how does A relate to B, and what does this tell us about the broader question of C?”
- Evaluate your students’ cognitive skills. Assign less reviews and reports in favor of analysis, comparisons, essays, and creative problem-solving tasks that encourage the use of higher cognitive skills.
- Encourage research in stages. Explain the importance of conducting research and note-taking, and correct and return drafts in sections or parts.
- Explain the different types of research and sources, as well as examples.
- Avoid weighing a single assignment or project as a large percentage of a student’s final grade.
- Set realistic goals and deadlines to decrease cramming and student anxiety.
Teach Proper Paraphrasing
Let your students know the difference between plagiarizing and paraphrasing. Some of them may already know that paraphrasing is common in essays, thesis, and research papers, but many are not aware if they’ve paraphrased too much.
As an instructor, make sure to conduct exercises or assignments that would teach students to paraphrase quotes and other works, as well as cite their sources properly. This way, students can have a better understanding of what it means to paraphrase, and how they’re less likely to accidentally plagiarize a paper.
Encourage Proper Citation
Instead of telling students what not to do, focus on what you expect them to do. Promote correct citation and provide samples of well-written articles from a discipline or field of study for which they’re writing. And then, ask them to analyze the technique used by the author when integrating others’ works into their own piece.
At the college level, students are expected to use a certain citation style when writing papers, like APA or MLA. According to the Common Core State Standards, students are encouraged to start applying formal citation styles as early as Grade 7. A lot of students also benefit from online citation generators like the built-in feature in Google Docs. But while these can be wonderful time-savers, they’re not always fail-safe. Ultimately, students will get the most use out of learning to do their own citations manually.
Dealing with plagiarism can be a real pain for both the teacher and the student. However, it’s important to let students know that they need to be disciplined accordingly when they commit academic dishonesty.
In most cases, teachers give students a failing mark for plagiarizing. Along with this, it must be explained to them that while a failing mark is one thing, companies and professionals have no use for plagiarism in the real world. Students must know and understand that plagiarism comes with grave consequences, and society values those who put their own work into any given task.