Feature: Guidelines For Plagiarism Prevention

By Azahar bin Ahmad Nizar (azahar_ahmad@oum.edu.my)

Plagiarism is a widespread problem which threatens the integrity of intellectual work in academic institutions all over the world. Is there anything that we can do to prevent plagiarism from happening? The following guidelines may be of some help:

  1. Explain what “plagiarism” means: Most of the time, plagiarism happens because students honestly cannot tell the difference between proper citation and outright plagiarism. To prevent these “honest mistakes” from occurring, spend some time at the beginning of the course explaining the differences between the two by referring to clear examples.

  2. Explain what’s wrong with plagiarism: Plagiarism is wrong because it infringes on the intellectual property of others. At the same time, the learners are also doing themselves a disservice because they deprive themselves of the opportunity to learn and apply proper research skills. Finally, plagiarism is an act of injustice against fellow coursemates who have actually taken the trouble to complete their assignments honestly.

  3. Make the consequences clear: Learners will think twice about committing plagiarism if they were made aware of the dire consequences of doing so. Lecturers should warn learners that they risk automatic failure should they be caught plagiarising in their assignments.

  4. Start off with clear expectations: Lecturers should make it clear to learners from the start that a good assignment consists of original ideas, and not necessarily a long list of sources. Once they are clear about what they are expected to produce, they can focus on producing original work instead of churning page after page of useless information.

  5. Assign specific questions or topics: Assigning specific questions or topics will reduce the likelihood of plagiarism. This is because your learners are unlikely to fi nd ready-made essays online, because these tend to be very general in nature.

  6. Require students to submit thesis statements, introductions, outlines, or drafts: During the early stages of research, learners should be required to submit drafts of their work. This is an effective way of deterring plagiarism as drafts are very difficult to forge, so they might as well come up with an original piece in the first place. Learners can then benefit from receiving feedback from the lecturers based on the drafts which they have prepared.

  7. Have your students annotate their bibliographies: Students should be required to summarise the relevance and usefulness of their sources in their own words. This will reveal how much they actually know their sources. Plagiarisers will have a hard time with this exercise because they have not actually taken the time to read their sources.

  8. Assign oral presentations: Your learners should be requested to give oral presentations on the research process which they went through. During the presentation, you can ask them to account for passages in their assignments which seem suspicious.

  9. Require recent and printed sources: Online essays from cheating databases are usually already several years old. You should encourage your learners to incorporate as many recent and contemporary sources as they can. This way, they will be up to speed on current research trends while preventing them from resorting to online essays.

  10. Assign a paragraph on the composition process: Learners should be asked to write a paragraph on the composition process explaining how they arrived at their topic, how they began researching it, what criteria they used for evaluating their sources, and what they learned from the research project. You can judge the genuineness of their efforts by how fluent they are in discussing the composition process.

  11. Encourage concision: Learners should be discouraged from “padding” or filling up their research papers with unnecessary information. Assignments should be about substantive arguments, not word length. Assignments written for the sake of satisfying a word count tend to be uninspired and disjointed due to plagiarised content

Adapted From: plagiarism.org

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I can educate my learners about the wrongfulness of plagiarism by:

setting a good example i.e. not committing plagiarism myself in the notes or materials that I give them
teaching them the correct way to quote references in their assignments
explaining to them the difference between original work and plagiarised work
severely penalising them whenever they hand in plagiarised work
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