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Culturally

Speaking...
A NEWSLETTER DEDICATED TO EDUCATIONAL, LINGUISTIC, AND CULTURAL TOPICS APRIL 2016

Plagiarism in essays and research papers:


What is an instructor to do?

Essays and research papers are Before assigning an essay or If an essay or research paper
useful and common tools in research paper, it can be useful is indeed the best assessment
university courses. However, to reflect upon whether that is tool, consider the following in
they can sometimes cause frus- the right tool to assess students order to lessen the likelihood
tration for instructors who fre- learning. Sometimes other work, that students will plagiarize:
quently encounter plagiarism in such as projects, presentations,
these assessment types. or portfolios, might be more
beneficial and less likely to con-
tain plagiarized material.

Do your homework! Change it up!


Avoid generic topics that are commonly featured in Dont recycle assignments.
essay banks/paper mills. Google to see what is readily
Change writing topics from block to block and from
available.
course section to course section.
Try to personalize assignments so that generic essay
Assignments that have been repeated block after block
bank papers would not be applicable.
make the perfect context for plagiarism.
Create essay prompts that examine and further what
It is difficult for students to feel motivated about as-
has happened in class, such as a particularly enthusias-
signments that are considered generic and which the
tic discussion.
instructor has clearly not spent time adapting for each
If content has a regional or personal application, in- course.
clude that as part of the assignment to make the con-
The fact that essay topics are repeated means that there
tent more relevant to the students and also less likely to
are numerous options out in the world already.
be found online.
For some, this is just too obvious a time savings to pass
Assignments that are viewed as routine or standard can
up.
sometimes be extremely demotivating to students.
When students cannot see the educational value of
such assignments, plagiarism could become very
tempting.

Newsletter created by: Danielle Bergez, Academic Liaison for International Student Support, danielle.d.bergez@wilmu.edu
Narrow it down!
Write narrow instructions for assignments such as use two journal articles, two academic websites, and two inter-
views as sources. Online essays will not be useful as it will be nearly impossible to find one that utilizes those spe-
cific combinations. Use a recent event as part of the prompt, as it is less likely to be in online essay banks/paper
mills.
Provide sources to students, rather than asking them to search for appropriate sources themselves. This relieves
the pressure of searching for appropriate sources and it also means less searching for the instructor to find items
used. The instructor knows exactly what students are working with and the students know that they will be held
accountable for those specific sources. Online essay mills or free essay sites will be less helpful since students are
expected to use certain sources.
Create assignments for which cutting and pasting would not be useful. For example, choose two articles on a par-
ticular topic and ask students to discuss how the issue is contrasted and which author presents the more convinc-
ing argument.

Draft it and reflect on it!


Drafts can be one tool in preventing plagiarism. Requiring a draft means that students have to complete some
work done by a particular point, thereby lessening a common reason for plagiarismprocrastination.
Drafts also show how work develops. It is important that students not be allowed to change topics, as this is a
common strategy to mask plagiarism.
Ask students to write brief, reflective pieces in which they state how they integrated feedback from a first draft to a
final. This focuses students attention on what needs to be improved and helps them to explain how they made
improvements. For example, I added more examples to paragraph three because comments stated that it wasnt a
convincing argument.
Another benefit of drafts is that plagiarism that appears on a draft can be addressed before the final grade.

Reference:
Carroll, J. (2007). A handbook for deterring plagiarism in higher education (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford Brookes University.

Newsletter created by: Danielle Bergez, Academic Liaison for International Student Support, danielle.d.bergez@wilmu.edu