When it comes to avoiding plagiarism, the best approach is a proactive one. It can be hard to advise other teachers on how to handle plagiarism because every situation is unique. However, every teacher can benefit from preventing plagiarism by teaching academic integrity. This blog post will share strategies to avoid plagiarism, along with advice on how to approach plagiarization in your students’ writing.
What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism involves claiming unoriginal work or ideas as the author’s own. Plagiarism can be accidental or intentional.
Chances are that if you teach English Language Arts, you are well aware of what plagiarism involves. You might even deal with plagiarism on a regular basis. Regardless, plagiarism should not be ignored. This is because plagiarising in academic or professional settings can have serious consequences.
Types of Plagiarism
Teaching the different types of plagiarism can help you avoid plagiarism in your students’ writing. Most students may know that copying someone’s work word-for-word is unacceptable. However, they may be unclear about other types of plagiarism.
- Direct Plagiarism: Direct plagiarism involves using someone else’s work without paraphrasing, referencing, or changing it. This can amount to parts of the work, or the work in its entirety. It is the most obvious form of plagiarism.
- Patchwork Plagiarism: Patchwork plagiarism involves using someone else’s work and weaving it together with the author’s ideas. It can also involve using the work of several different authors and piecing it together.
- Self Plagiarism: Self plagiarism involves recycling the author’s own work misleadingly. Although the work belongs to the author, it may falsely claim to be created at a later date or for a different purpose.
- Ghost Writing or Editing: This type of plagiarism fails to reference another author who willingly contributes to the work. It can involve hiring someone to complete or contribute to the work in exchange for some form of compensation. Ghost writing and editing can also be voluntary.
- Echo Plagiarism: Echo plagiarism involves reworking someone else’s work to disguise it as one’s own. This can involve rephrasing an entire work, or using the structure or scheme of another work. It can also involve using someone else’s bibliography or failing to reference secondary sources.
This lesson on the types of plagiarism is a great way to teach your students about the different ways that plagiarism occurs. It includes a formative assessment activity, an informational handout, and a consolidating worksheet.
What are Useful Techniques to Avoid Plagiarism?
Teach About Plagiarism at the Start of the Year
The best way to avoid plagiarism in your classroom is to teach about plagiarism at the beginning of the year. This lesson is an important step. It eliminates any chance of a student plagiarising unknowingly. If you notice a student plagiarising later in the year, it will also be easier to approach a conversation.
Even if your students are seniors or if they’ve learned about plagiarism before, it is still a great idea to teach every class about plagiarism. One reason for this is because sometimes plagiarism goes unnoticed. If students are used to completing assignments a certain way, they may knowingly or unknowingly continue to plagiarise under the assumption that their method is working for them.
Another reason to teach plagiarism is to continually reinforce this concept and all of its different forms. While some forms of plagiarism are straightforward, others may seem permissible. For example, a student may know not to copy and paste off the internet but may see no issue in having a parent help them edit their work. By reinforcing the concept of plagiarism, you can teach students to detect plagiarism instead of assuming it to be acceptable.
A final reason to teach about plagiarism is to accommodate cultural differences. When I taught in South-East Asia, I encountered a lot of plagiarism. My colleagues informed me that this was sometimes a reflection of the students’ collectivist culture. They explained that some students were encouraged to recite information in school. Attribution to individualistic ideas was also not a cultural priority.
We can even see cultural differences across generations; for example, reusing other people’s ideas on social media is considered following a trend instead of copying their work.
Help Students Identify Plagiarism
As mentioned, there are several types of plagiarism. Some types of plagiarism are more obvious than others. Informing students about the different types of plagiarism is a good start to introduce this concept. Solidifying this concept through application to real-life scenarios will help avoid plagiarism in the future.
You can facilitate this lesson by thinking of past examples of plagiarism that you have encountered. You can also brainstorm examples that relate to each type of plagiarism. Have a discussion with students about each example, and see if they are able to identify it as a form of plagiarism.
This lesson on How to Avoid Plagiarism includes several real-life examples that correlate to the types of plagiarism introduced in the informational handout. You can have students work on these worksheets independently or discuss them in groups. These scenarios will encourage students to think critically about their actions if they accidentally or intentionally plagiarise in your class.
Teach Your Policy for Plagiarism
Having a policy for plagiarism will help to avoid plagiarism in your classroom. Your policy will communicate your expectations surrounding plagiarism. It is also important to outline the consequences of plagiarism.
There are several different policies you can employ. Some policies deal with plagiarism on a case-by-case basis; others implement zero tolerance with harsh consequences. It is helpful to discuss a school-wide policy with your administration or a policy shared amongst your department. This will provide more consistent expectations for your students. It will also offer input from several educators in order to develop a policy that best reflects the values of your school.
You can use this editable plagiarism policy template in order to develop guidelines for your classroom. It is also helpful to include your policy in your course syllabus. I find it useful to have students sign a copy of our policy; by signing, they communicate that they have read and understood my expectations.
Be sure to remind students about your policy often. You can clarify your expectations when assigning projects or assessments. This is also a good opportunity to direct students to where they can go if they need extra help. It is best to vocalize these expectations, as well as put them in writing.
Tools to Avoid Plagiarism
Here are a few tools that you can use to avoid plagiarism in your classroom:
Google Apps®: You can download a Chrome extension called Draftback that allows you to replay the revision history of any document. The caveat with this feature is that students need to complete all of their work within the Google Docs® file. To do this, I assign a blank document to every student in Google Classroom® and instruct them to do all of their work within it.
Plagiarism Checkers: Grammarly offers a free plagiarism checker for both students and teachers alike. Quetext also offers both free and paid options for plagiarism checkers. While their free plagiarism checker is helpful for isolated incidents, you will need to purchase a monthly subscription to regularly rely on this tool. Turnitin is another popular plagiarism checker. Although the highest investment, Turnitin is effective. Turnitin has a database of submitted work, meaning that it can inform you if similar work has been submitted at a different school.
Google Search: Searching for fragments using Google Search can help you locate work plagiarized from internet sources. To do this, copy various fragments and paste them within quotation marks to the Google search bar. If you take this approach, be aware of unconscious and personal bias. It is best practice to do this with every students’ work. If you are searching for fragments based on complexity or word choice, apply the same standard to every assignment.
Conversations: Plagiarism tools unfortunately do not catch everything. For example, there are rephrasing applications that students can use to paraphrase direct plagiarism. Sometimes the best tool we have is a difficult conversation. If you suspect plagiarism, you can ask students to clarify their thoughts, ideas, or word choice.
Making Plagiarism Personal
One of the most challenging aspects of plagiarism is how insulting it can feel. I want to preface this by stating that plagiarism is a serious offense – in some countries, plagiarism is a crime. Plagiarism is considered both theft and dishonesty. Because of this, there are serious consequences for plagiarism.
As teachers, it is easy to also feel disrespected by a student to plagiarizes in your classroom. We might also be upset by the integrity of our students when we identify plagiarism.
More often than not, plagiarism is not personal. If you are concerned about manipulation, laziness, or dishonesty, then be sure to look for evidence beyond plagiarism alone. There are a number of reasons students plagiarize, and it is likely that none of them have to do with you.
With the severity of plagiarism in mind, we can still consider different reasons why students plagiarize. If a student does not understand the assignment, they may choose to plagiarize instead of asking for help. They may also have plagiarized in the past with previous teachers who did not thoroughly read their work. Plagiarizing may be a means to a desirable end for students, including a high grade on their transcript or more time to devote to other responsibilities.
While none of these reasons are acceptable, we must remember that they may be permissible in our students’ minds. When I have a conversation about plagiarism, I like to keep my intentions in mind. Rather than shaming a student, my intention is to teach them about the consequences of their actions. This allows me to be firm in my policies but to remind them that I am ultimately here to support their well-being.
Final Takeaways for Avoiding Plagiarism
While there are a number of tools to help identify plagiarism, sometimes the best tool is a conversation. Teaching students about the different types of plagiarism and implementing a plagiarism policy will encourage your students to avoid plagiarism. These lessons are essential precursors to teaching paraphrasing or how to write citations. It will also lay the foundation for a productive conversation if it comes time to have one.
For your own sake and for the sake of your students, keep your intentions in mind. If your intention is to help your students succeed in their professional and personal lives, then a conversation about plagiarism in school will certainly help their future success.
Sometimes, a conversation about plagiarism can foster trust and understanding between you and your student. Many teachers can recall conversations about plagiarism as turning points in their relationship with a student. By demonstrating to a student that you see them, believe in them, and want to hold them accountable, you can demonstrate effective conflict resolution with a student and foster a strong student-teacher bond.
I hope this article supports you in teaching how to avoid plagiarism in your students’ work. To download the lessons and worksheets mentioned in this blog post, be sure to preview the bundle to help teach how to avoid plagiarism.
Preview the Plagiarism Bundle from Mondays Made Easy