Although plagiarism is a complex issue in many forms, everybody would agree with me about following points:
- Plagiarism is a serious misconduct
- In a digital age, plagiarism has become easier than ever and the fact is it is increasing at an alarming rate.
- Sometimes, plagiarism is unintentional and may come from lacking of understanding.
- There is a need for plagiarism prevention and education
As a teacher, there are ways to help students avoiding plagiarism.
One: Educate students about plagiarism
To avoid plagiarism, the first step is making sure that students are aware of plagiarism, what is and what is not plagiarism, why it is serious, and why we should pay attention. One indispensable part of each class syllabus is the code of conduct or the honor code. Most of the time, this part lists activities or behaviors, which are considered unethical. Plagiarism is always mentioned with varied length from one word to one paragraph with examples and detailed penalties. I rarely see a syllabus with encouragement for students to be responsible learners. I believe that educating and encouraging students doing the right things is a better way to avoiding plagiarism than providing penalties. Also, students should be taught how to look for information, take good notes about the content and the source, translate collected information using their own words, and cite the source in different circumstances. Teachers can guide students to available software or tools assisting the writing process such as how to search effectively, how to search in different databases, how to use citation managers such us EndNote, Zotero, or Mendeley. Importantly, teachers should create an environment encouraging students to talk to teachers about students’ questions and concerns regarding plagiarism. Furthermore, teachers can broaden the usage of plagiarism detection tools as learning tools. They can encourage students using Turnitin, for example, to clarify what is plagiarism and what is not, how to fix it, as well as how to avoid it.
Two: Make it hard to plagiarize
The assignment itself can be changed to resist plagiarism. When an assignment can be easily found online, it might increase the temptation to plagiarize. If the assignment is more specific and asks for creativity and reflection, it might reduce plagiarism chance. The downside of a specific assignment is it narrows students in a small space, they might not see the problem as a complete picture.
For a writing assignment, teachers might apply step-by-step assignments. It means that instead of submitting the final paper/proposals/literature review, students are required to submit ideas/topics first, then the outline, the first draft following that, and the final one. By doing it, it not only reduces the chance of plagiarism, but also helps teachers detecting plagiarism in the early stage to avoid it from happening.
It is essential to emphasize that it is not only about catching plagiarists. It is about how to build up honor and integrity to reduce plagiarism in schools and to produce better learners.