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Preventing Plagiarism

Plagiarism is theft: the stealing and appropriating of someone else's words and ideas and passing them off as your own. Plagiarism has long been a problem in schools, and in recent years reliance on the Internet has greatly exacerbated the issue. Plagiarized papers are compiled from a number of different online articles, which can be and pasted together to resemble a research paper—at least, superficially. Others are downloaded from free or subscription "research paper" websites. Because of the abundance of online information, it can be difficult to spot a plagiarized paper. Here are some tips that can help you to prevent plagiarism in your classroom:
 
1. Define plagiarism.
Most students are aware that copying a research paper from a website, a printed source, or a friend is plagiarism. However, many may not realize that failing to cite and reference their information sources correctly also constitutes plagiarism. Be very clear about what plagiarism is—provide a definition and conduct a classroom discussion about it. Show students examples of plagiarized work and work that has been correctly cited, so they fully understand the differences between them.
 
2. Discuss the implications.
Conduct a discussion with your students about why plagiarism is wrong. Explain that plagiarism not only involves stealing and lying about it, but can also interfere with the plagiarizer’s learning and disrespects both the educator and fellow students. Outline any formal anti-plagiarism policy of your school or institution and any penalties for plagiarism, such as an automatic fail grade for a paper or class. Remind students that if they can easily find a "canned" research paper online, so can you, and chances are that they will be caught.
 
3. Understand why plagiarism occurs.
Students are typically under a huge amount of pressure at school. Other classes and outside commitments compete with a student's time to prepare a paper. To prevent potential plagiarism problems and spread the workload a research paper represents, explain the importance of organization and preparation, and structure your expectations accordingly. For example, request thesis statements or research questions at the end of the first week and a rough draft at the end of the second week. It is much easier to plagiarize a research paper than a rough draft. Stress to students the importance of their own ideas. Explain that the point of a research project—and the basis on which it will be evaluated—is the students' interpretation of the sources they consult, and their use of those sources to support or refute arguments, as well as the thoroughness of their research.
 
4. Include instructions on citing sources.
Make sure your students understand what sources need to be cited, and that full citations are part of the expectations for any research project. Stipulate what citation style is required. If your school uses an online citation service such as EasyBib, incorporate that information. Remind students to include parenthetical references or footnotes throughout their paper, as well as a Works Cited or References list. Most cases of plagiarism arise because of poor citing and referencing. Explain that a bibliography is an important part of any paper that should evolve as the paper progresses, not be created in haste at the end of the process. (You may want to verify or spot-check supplied citations to make sure the sources exist and have been accurately quoted.)
 
5. Issue specific assignments.
Provide a list of very specific topics or research questions that your students can choose from. Unusual or narrowly focused topics reduce the chances that students can find similar articles online. You can set questions to be answered in the course of their paper. If a student wishes to write on a specific topic, the topic should be cleared with you in advance.
 
6. Request specified sources.
You might, for example, request at least three news articles from the past year, three articles from a particular database, four periodical, book, or ebook sources, and two primary sources, which could include video, audio, or other multimedia sources. (Requesting recent material eliminates a vast number of dated articles from research-paper websites.)
 
7. Request an annotated bibliography.
Ask students to include a short descriptive and evaluative paragraph on each source in their bibliography. The annotation should include a short summary of the source, why the student chose it, and where the student found it. This is an easy task for a student who conducted valid research, but very difficult for a student who has copied a paper.
 
8. Ask students to read their papers in class.
Oral reports can be a valuable plagiarism deterrent. If the assigned paper is long, ask for a verbal report or summary. At the end of the presentation, ask or invite the class to ask specific questions about how the student wrote the paper and developed his or her ideas. If students realize that they must know their papers in depth, they are more likely to research and write them than to copy them. If you suspect that a paper has been plagiarized, try typing some words or the title into a general search engine, or use any academic plagiarism-checking service such as Turnitin that your school may license. If you suspect that information has been
plagiarized from an online encyclopedia or database, try typing some words into the encyclopedia's or database's search box.
 
“Preventing Plagiarism.” The Facts On File Guide to Literary Research: Teacher's Edition, Facts On File, 2017. Bloom's Literature, online.infobase.com/Article/Details/509348. Accessed 26 Oct. 2017.

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