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Plagiarism is one of the plagues that have tormented teachers since the first school was opened. The motivation or cause behind it can be many: procrastination, lack of research skills, or even an attempt to sound smarter. But the consequence is always the same, copying some else’s words and signing them as if they were yours. And it can be from a book, a paper, or from another student.
Unfortunately, the technology that we have available nowadays just made things easier. Now you don’t have to go through the trouble of writing or typing entire paragraphs to create your essay. All you have to do is to select, copy, and paste it to have your assignment done in just a few minutes.
The internet is full of models, templates, and examples of papers already done regarding a large number of topics. So if you want to prevent plagiarism in your students’ papers, you will need to be prepared to go an extra mile and put a few tips into practice.
# 1 - Let your students know what you understand as plagiarism
The first thing that you will have to do is explain to your students what you understand as plagiarism. Don’t be afraid to sound silly here. You shouldn’t also assume that they know what you are talking about. Some of them might be so used to see whatever is online as part of their lives that they don’t realise that they are doing a bad thing.
So prepare hand-outs and give a brief presentation about it so everybody will have the same level of information. Give them examples of what they can or can’t do, and let them ask whatever they need. This way they won’t be able to complain later if you catch them copying some else’s work.
# 2 - Inform them that you use plagiarism-checker tools
During your presentation, make sure that you let your students know that you will be using plagiarism-checker tool so to verify the originality of their work. Name a few solutions that you might be using, and encourage them to check their own work before handing it to you as a way to prevent any unintentional plagiarism. It will also be a great opportunity for you to let them know that anti-plagiarism tricks won't work and that you know them all by heart.
# 3 - Never repeat topics from previous semesters
Students talk to each other, including to the seniors that have attended your classes before. This is a valuable way to find crucial information about what you are expecting from them, so you shouldn’t worry about it in principle.
But you need to be aware that they might get to see your previous exams and that they will find out which topics you have suggested before. So make sure that you never repeat topics from previous semesters, especially from recent years, as you know that those students are still around the place.
# 4 - Teach them how to paraphrase and add citations/quotes
After your explanation, your students already know what they can’t do, but they might not be sure about what they should do so to use what they have researched correctly. So it is your job now explain to them how to paraphrase and include citations and quotes in their papers.
Give them examples of the right way to absorb what they read, write it with their own words, and add their own point of view to it. They might also need support on the rules about how to use quotation marks and similar details, so be ready to go through the whole process with them.
# 5 - Ask for a memoir about their writing process
A practical way to prevent plagiarism is by asking your student to create a short memoir about their writing process. On it, they will let you know which sources they have used and how they found them, which will intimidate those who are just copying and pasting. It will also help you to set apart those who actually just plagiarised the entire paper from those who copied paragraphs or only a couple of sentences.
# 6 - Request an oral report
Another way to spot those who didn’t bother doing any research at all is by requesting an oral report about the paper. This way they will have to talk about what they have written and you will know how much they have dedicated themselves to it. Even their choice of words and arguments will give them away.
And you can be as informal as you wish, just asking them to talk about the paper they have just handed to you without much preparation, for instance. The point here is that they know that they will have to do it, which will force them to reflect on what they are writing instead of just copying it.
Trying to prevent plagiarism is one of the best ways to avoid trouble later. It does give you some work to do, but it usually is just a question of giving one or two presentation and some hands-outs. Most students are happy to be encouraged to be presenting their original ideas, so make them see it in a positive way, instead of you walking around as plagiarism-patrol. This way you will have more chances to be successful in the long term.