Students Need to Understand Plagiarism Research Suggests

Check out this article in the Times Higher Education: Students “Don’t Understand” Plagiarism, Research Suggests

A great article demonstrating the reasons why plagiarism education is a necessity.

Creating Lessons that Discourage Plagiarism

One of the best things a teacher can do is to create a classroom environment that discourages AND DECREASES the temptation to commit plagiarism. Using plagiarism checking software is a must (just like a police officers presence decreases speeding on the road), but anti-plagiarism friendly assignments also are great. They turn your classroom into an anti-plagiarism environment while at the same time promoting creative and original thinking. Win-win!

Here’s a helpful link from MIT’s Comparative Media Studies and Writing department that offers teachers suggestions about how to create assignments that decrease the temptation to cheat: Resources for Teachers: How to Prevent Plagiarism

Good luck on the new school year!

What Can You Do?!: Some Tips for Teachers

The end of the school year is already upon you or is imminently so (as in my case). This article on Education World is really helpful on thinking about your classroom for the next school year. The fight against plagiarism starts on day one of the school year. Like any good general, you have to have a plan of attack. Here’ some good tips to use as a part of your plan. Check it out: Education World: Put an End to Plagiarism in the Classroom.

Of special importance is the “Student Guide to Plagiarism” handout! Don’t overlook it.

Plagiarism Instruction in the MLA Handbook

A great resource for teachers is the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. If you go on to the MLA (Modern Language Association) website, you can email MLA to request a free copy. Besides all the information about MLA formatting and citations (the standard for all Humanities classes), the handbook provides a concise chapter on plagiarism—a clear definition, types of plagiarism, consequences of plagiarism, and tips on how to avoid plagiarism. I have created of the handbook which you can see at the end of this post.

The MLA Handbook’s section on plagiarism is very student friendly, addressing the student directly. I have culled a few insights from the chapter that I think is most helpful for teaching students about plagiarism:

  • Because research has the power to affect opinions and actions, responsible writers compose their work with great care. They specify when they refer to another author’s ideas, facts, and words, whether they want to agree with, object to, or analyze the source. This kind of documentation not only recognizes the work writer do; it also tends to discourage the circulation of error, by inviting readers to determine for themselves whether a reference to another text presents a reasonable account of what that text says. Plagiarists undermine these important public values. (52-53).
  • Plagiarists are often seen as incompetent—incapable of developing and expressing their own thoughts—or worse, dishonest, willing to deceive others for personal gain (53).
  • Student plagiarism does considerable harm. For one thing, it damages teachers’ relationships with students, turning teachers into detectives instead of mentors and fostering suspicion instead of trust. (53).
  • To guard against unintentional plagiarism during research and writing, keep careful notes that always distinguish among three types of material: your ideas, your summaries and paraphrases of others’ ideas and facts, and exact wording you copy from sources. Plagiarism sometimes happens because researchers do not keep precise records of their reading, and by the time thy return to their notes, they have forgotten whether their summaries and paraphrases contain quoted material that is poorly marked or unmarked (55).
  • If you realize after handing a paper in that you accidentally plagiarized an author’s work, you should report the problem to your instructor as soon as possible. In this way you eliminate the element of fraud. You may receive a lower grade than you had hoped for, but getting a lower grade is better than failing a course or being expelled (56).
  • If you have any doubt about whether or not you are committing plagiarism, cite your source or sources (59).

Besides these insights, the sections on “Forms of Plagiarism” (56-58) and “Summing Up” are also great for students. Check out the PDF file below and consider sharing these two sections with your students.



MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. (New York: Modern

Language Association of America, 2009).



Plagiarism Professional Development

Professional Development season is upon us. This year I have the privilege of presenting at a couple of PDs. Below you will find my presentation. Feel free to use it for your own purposes. But, what I am really curious about, is your input, suggestions, or questions.

I have ordered the presentation around four questions. Am I leaving anything out? Do you have any suggestions to improve it?

Combating Plagiarism Professional Development

I Didn’t Know!!!: Students Claim Plagiarism Ignorance

Plagiarism CartoonI am the head of the Student Plagiarism Review Committee at our school (Yes, I know it is an awful name . . . any suggestions?). The committee is an ad hoc committee to determine student plagiarism and consequences. We are not quite six weeks into the new school year, and, unfortunately, I have had to oversee four committee meetings already. Each time, the student accused of plagiarism pleaded ignorance–“I didn’t know that was plagiarism!” This is an all too common occurrence.

The purpose of this website is to give teachers the tools to educate students about plagiarism so that they can learn how to avoid it. If you are a follower of, you know that my school has focused on this issue for over year with a blitzkrieg education program (see Nonetheless, students who sat through each one of these information session–one even wearing our stop plagiarism bracelet–pleaded a lack of knowledge about what constitutes plagiarism. I was baffled.

As I reflect on these four sessions, I have learned one thing–teachers need to constantly teach students about the gravity of plagiarism as well as the benefits from avoiding it (not just the consequences!). English teachers around the world are checking off the obligatory beginning of the class speech about plagiarism. They will not revisit the issue until the following year. Don’t do this, for the sake of your students. Every so often–at least once a month–briefly revisit something related to plagiarism to keep the issue at the forefront of the students’ minds. Remind them every paper to be original, creative, and critical and not cheat themselves by committing plagiarism. Only be constantly reminding our students can we help them see how serious an issue it is and help them avoid sitting in front of the dreaded plagiarism committee.

Now What?!: How to Reform a Plagiarizer

For my last post, I discussed the meeting with my student who had been caught plagiarizing. So, you’ve caught a student plagiarizing, now what. How can you follow through with the consequences while maintaining your responsibility as a teacher to help them learn from their mistake? The purpose of the consequences is rehabilitation. Turn the cheater into a conscientious writer who, hopefully, will not make the mistake of plagiarizing again. Below are a few of the extra steps I take with students who cheat.

  • Failing grade for the assignment that they will have to make up over one of their breaks (Fall, Winter, Spring) with the inability to score higher than a 75%.
  • If the assignment is a final assessment, then a failing grade for the unit/semester/course.
  • The student will handwrite the next two assessments in my presence and only in my presence. Thus, if they have to spend extra time at school, then they must make the arrangements.
  • This can be a pain for some teachers, but let the student know that they must work around your schedule. They made the choice to plagiarize. They must take the responsibility to fix it.
  • The student must write a letter to parents and administration—that will be shared only with them—explaining their choice to cheat and how they are going to make it up to the class.

These are just a few idea. There are lots of teachers on this site each week. PLEASE, give us your ideas.