As instructors, helping our students learn to avoid plagiarism while using sources to guide their work is an important role for us to play. We all have negative gut reactions to a student’s paper that seems to include evidence of plagiarized material or have a lack of appropriate citations, but approaching this topic proactively may be much easier on our students, not to mention on our tempers after reading a towering stack of papers with inappropriate uses of others’ scholarly work.
This semester, I have begun to focus on providing students with thorough guidance of how to effectively use sources in their writing, thereby helping them to avoid or at least minimizing unintentional plagiarism in their writing assignments. Giving students the benefit of the doubt in the beginning of a semester and taking on the tone of understanding in terms of how difficult it can be to learn how to properly use sources, as opposed to being the “police” of plagiarism in the classroom can be an effective avenue to take.
This inherently involves allotting some class time to discuss the issue. Doing so, makes your students aware that you place importance on this topic and that you are willing to assist them in this learning process. Providing students with a plagiarism quiz that gives examples of scenarios in which they decide whether a given situation entails plagiarism and then having a class discussion about what constitutes plagiarism allows for students to be honest about the areas they deem confusing regarding paraphrasing, citing, etc. Recently, two of our writing fellows, Syelle Graves and Heather Zuber in collaboration with Bronwen Densmore and Anne Leonard from the library, gave a workshop to faculty about avoiding plagiarism and using library resources. Their slides and handouts, including the aforementioned plagiarism quiz can be found HERE.
Additional ways to minimize plagiarism in your students’ writing (from my own experience as well as the workshop mentioned above):
- Provide high-quality models of writing with correct citations and paraphrasing
- In class, show students how to find scholarly sources through City Tech’s library databases (step-by-step demonstration including giving them a list of the best databases for your field)
- As the instructor, model correct citations throughout the semester (in your syllabus, handouts, slides)
- Provide handouts to students with links to other sources regarding paraphrasing and correct citation format for your field (links are included in the handouts for the aforementioned past workshop)
- Require students to create annotated bibliographies for which they cite their sources and summarize the main findings along with the importance of that source for a later larger research project or paper in your course
- Give a typed assignment handout that states the citation format (e.g., APA, MLA) they need to use for that assignment and the number of sources they need